A few hundred community members gathered in May in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Minneapolis to rally for abortion rights. Credit: Jaida Grey Eagle | Sahan Journal

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A Minnesota judge on Monday threw out several state laws restricting access to abortion, calling them unconstitutional.

Ramsey County District Judge Thomas Gilligan overturned six state laws in an opinion for the civil case, Doe v. Minnesota, ruling that they violated the state constitution. His decision comes just a little over two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated the federal right to recieve an abortion.

Gilligan’s order overturns a handful of rules that have been in place in Minnesota for at least two decades. They include:

  • A mandated 24-hour waiting period patients must observe between seeking an abortion and recieving an abortion.
  • The required notification of two parents or guardians for all people under 18 who receive an abortion. 
  • Requiring all abortion procedures, including abortions executed by taking a prescribed pill, be performed by a medical doctor.
  • Requiring all abortions performed in the second trimester and afterward be performed at a hospital.
  • Requiring all medical providers read a script to patients seeking abortion about potential risks of the procedure.

“These abortion laws violate the right to privacy because they infringe upon the fundamental right under the Minnesota Constitution to access abortion care and do not withstand strict scrutiny,” Gilligan wrote. “Accordingly, this court is declaring those laws unconstitutional and permanently enjoining their enforcement.”

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed in 2019 by a coalition of advocacy groups that support abortion rights against the state of Minnesota, the governor’s office, and several state agencies. The plaintiffs asked a judge to strike down the laws.

Minnesota is expected to see a large increase in patients from neighboring states seeking abortions because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 decision overturning Roe v. Wade, which had protected the right right to receive an abortion under the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court’s decision prompted several states to ban abortions, and now allows each state to determine abortion access.

Minnesota could see as much as a 371 percent increase in out-of-state patients seeking abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that focuses on sexual and reproductive health.

Gilligan’s ruling relies on a landmark 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling, Doe v. Gomez,  that guarantees the right to abortion at the state level.

“There is no dispute that Gomez protects the right to choose whether to have an abortion,” Gilligan wrote. “The right to choose to have an abortion, however, would be meaningless without the right to access abortion care.”

Gilligan also addressed the recent U.S. Supreme Court Dobbs vs. Jackson decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and threw out abortion rights on the federal level. He ruled that Dobbs doesn’t apply to the state lawsuit because the plaintiffs “brought their challenges only under the Minnesota Constitution, not the United States Constitution.”

The state’s Gomez ruling, he emphasized, also added “greater protection” to the right to abortion than the U.S. Supreme Court’s now-defunct Roe v. Wade decision from 1973. 

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office is defending the state in the lawsuit, said in a prepared statement Monday that he is reviewing Gilligan’s decision and hasn’t decided whether the state will appeal. 

“It’s clear Judge Gilligan, who has had this case for three years, has put much thought into this decision that he clearly did not take lightly,” Ellison said.

Ellison supports abortion rights but has previously said his office is constitutionally tasked with legally defending the restrictions because they are state law. During the week that the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month, Ellison pledged that his office would legally protect people from other states seeking abortions in Minnesota. 

Abortion rights supporters quickly praised Gilligan’s ruling Monday.“In light of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, every piece of red tape matters for Minnesotans and people traveling to Minnesota for abortion care,” said Shayla Walker, executive director of Gender Justice, a local advocacy group which is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “Today’s ruling is an important step toward making abortion accessible to everyone who needs it.”

Joey Peters

Joey Peters is a reporter for Sahan Journal. His work has appeared in Reuters, Public Radio International, Columbia Journalism Review, KFAI Radio, the Pioneer Press, City Pages, MinnPost and more. He previously...