Minnesota Pro-Lifers Aim To Topple Abortion

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Pro-life legislation with the capacity to change the Minnesota Constitution and nullify a state Supreme Court ruling that forced the legislature to pay for abortions could go before voters in the November election.

A simple majority vote in the legislature is needed to place on the November ballot a referendum that would effectively eliminate existing pro-abortion provisions in the state constitution.

Minnesota's current abortion battle dates back to 1995 when the state Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution must protect a woman's right to choose abortion. But pro-life legislators and organizations contend that the decision went one step too far.

The state's justices ruled that the Minnesota Department of Revenue must allocate funds and issue checks to pay for abortions for low-income women, with no input or approval needed from the state legislature.

State Rep. Eric Lipman (R-Lake Elmo) said the state Supreme Court's decision also forces taxpayers to pay for abortions for low-income women regardless of how taxpayers may feel about the issue.

What's worse, he said, is that the state legislature was stripped of its power to make any budget decisions regarding abortion funding.

"The (Minnesota) Supreme Court crossed the constitutional divide and are now acting as super-appropriators on the state welfare budget," said Lipman.

In order to remove the state Supreme Court's requirement that a state agency, rather than the legislature, pay for abortions, he wrote House File 657.

HF 657 specifically states, "Nothing in this constitution requires the use of state funds for abortion services and no state funds shall be used for such purposes unless specifically authorized by an act of the legislature."

However, Lipman said the largest pro-life organization in the state does not support his efforts.

According to Scott Fischbach, executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), Lipman's bill is "not a priority" for his pro-life organization in 2002.

Instead, Fischbach said he supports a different pro-life bill, proposed by Republican state Rep. Tony Kielkucki.

Kielkucki's bill, House File 54, states, "Nothing in this constitution may be construed to relate to abortion in a manner different from the constitution of the United States."

Simply put, his proposal would prevent the state of Minnesota and its Supreme Court from granting any new pro-abortion rights, including taxpayer funding for them.

Fischbach explained that MCCL disagrees with Lipman's bill because it only focuses on one aspect of the 1995 court ruling. He added that the court's decision was "much broader" than just taxpayer funded abortions, because it actually established an "absolute right" to an abortion in the state Constitution.

According to Fischbach, Lipman's proposal doesn't get enough legislative bang for the buck. "It's a drawn-out battle that is fought much like a campaign," he said, noting that it takes millions of dollars and exhausting amounts of time and energy to even pass a constitutional amendment.

Overt opposition to Lipman's bill is coming from the Minnesota National Abortion Rights and Reproduction League. Mari Bonthuis, a political operative for the league, argues that HF 657 attacks the "constitutionality" of paying for a low-income woman's right to an abortion.

Bonthuis claimed that all who support such legislation "would rather have the woman die" than provide state-funded abortions. "Even if the life of the woman were in danger," she added, there would be "no exceptions."

Specifically pointing to Kielkucki's proposal, Bonthuis said his legislation would eliminate any protection that exists in the state constitution for the "right to choose."

She said she holds little hope for defeating the pro-life legislation in the state House, conceding that there's "absolutely no question" that either of the proposals would pass.

However, Bonthuis noted that the state Senate is a "different matter," with a number of state senators not holding staunch positions on either side of the abortion issue.

"If it were to get to the floor and every single senator were to be there that day, I honestly couldn't tell you," she said of the chances for any pro-life legislation to win approval.

The Minnesota state Senate has 67 senators - 31 are pro-abortion, while 33 are pro-life and 3 are "mixed," according to Bonthuis.

If a majority in the legislature passes an amendment to the state constitution, it goes straight to the ballot for voters to decide.

Ventura, regarded by MNNARAL as an ally, has no formal voice or veto power in constitutional matters, Bonthuis said.