Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Tuesday he will do what he can to keep access to abortion in the state following the leak of a draft opinion of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that would overturn the constitutional right to abortion.
But the DFL governor said the decision disrupts years of constitutional precedent and will lead state Legislatures to try to impose more restrictions on access to abortion services. “When this goes through we are a fundamentally different country,” Walz said after an event commemorating Small Business Week. “But let me make this clear, whoever sits in this office, as I have the privilege to do right now, will make that decision. My statement is very clear: Not on my watch.”
The Minnesota Supreme Court has found that the state Constitution provides a right to abortion, but that could be reversed either by a future court or via a constitutional amendment. Governors have no say in such amendments, which need simple majorities of the House and Senate as well as a majority of those voting in a statewide election.
Walz said polling shows that a strong majority of Minnesota voters support access to abortion and that the decision should be made by women themselves.
The first-term governor at first fended off questions about the political implications of the possible decision. All five statewide elected offices and all 201 legislative seats are on the ballot this November. All of the GOP candidates for governor have said they oppose the decision that enshrined the right to an abortion in the U.S., Roe v. Wade, and would work to restrict access. A decision similar to what was outlined in the leaked draft would give states the ability to ban abortion.
“I don’t approach it first as a mobilizing issue,” Walz said in response to a question about how the potential ruling would impact the fall elections. “I see it as public health and the right of women to make their own decisions about their own bodies on reproductive health.
“We’re in a dangerous time,” he said. “People are scared today.”
But Walz did say that he thinks supporters of abortion rights will mobilize and that an overturning of a federal right to abortion will present a stark difference between the major political parties.
“There’s no if, ands or buts about it. By whatever means necessary the Republicans have made it clear that they will restrict the right of women to make reproductive choices in all circumstances. That is unconscionable. There are no theoretics about it. It will happen.
“This was the stuff of dystopian movies and it’s now on our doorstep.”
The issue was set to come up on the House floor Tuesday via a GOP amendment to the Health and Human Services funding and policy bill. The amendment would require special licensing and regulation of clinics that offer more than 10 abortions a month.
Senate Human Services Licensing Policy Committee Chair Michelle Benson, a Ham Lake Republican who until last week was a GOP candidate for governor, issued a statement Tuesday.
“Republicans support women facing challenging and unplanned pregnancies and will continue our efforts to give unborn babies and pregnant women every opportunity at a healthy, happy life,” Benson said. “Overturning Roe v. Wade puts the decision about abortion into the hands of Minnesotans while Doe v. Gomez, the Minnesota version of Roe v. Wade, remains in place. If Roe is overturned, we will work to build consensus for the strongest possible protections for unborn children, and support for women, moms, and families in Minnesota.”