MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - The majority Republican Minnesota Senate on Monday voted to restrict abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in medical emergencies, a measure expected to be vetoed by Democratic Governor Mark Dayton.
Minnesota would join a half dozen other states in restricting abortions based on studies that suggest a fetus begins to feel pain at 20 weeks. The Minnesota law would also open doctors performing abortions to possible felony charges and civil penalties.
State senators including some Democrats, voted 42 to 24 to approve the restrictions. The bill was slightly changed from a version that passed the Republican-led state House earlier in May and requires reconciliation.
The vote in the Senate fell just short of the two-thirds majority, or 45 votes, needed to override Dayton’s possible veto. The 82 votes for it in the House also fell short of the two-thirds needed to override.
Dayton has said he supports a woman’s right to choose abortion, but has not formally said he would veto legislation.
“The state does have a compelling interest to protect children, babies, who can feel pain,” said Republican Senator Gretchen Hoffman, a sponsor of the legislation.
After 20 weeks, abortions could only be performed to avert the death of a pregnant woman or because there was a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairments. Psychological or emotional reasons are specifically excluded.
Senate Democrats questioned the need for the restriction, saying that in 2009 fewer than 10 abortions were performed after 20 weeks in Minnesota, all due to fetal anomalies. The bill also makes no provision for fetal anomalies.
The legislation gives doctors and families no choice as to whether the family would make that heart-breaking and horrible decision,” Democratic Senator Katie Sieben said. “... I think this legislation goes too far.”
The Minnesota law references medical evidence for fetal pain 20 weeks after fertilization, including reactions to stimulus and the routine use of anesthesia for surgeries.
Medical opinion is conflicted. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has found “no legitimate scientific information that supports the statement that a fetus experiences pain.”
The Senate also advanced a bill to restrict state funding for abortion services, a figure that stood at about $1.6 million in 2009 for some 4,000 abortions.
Nebraska enacted a broad 20-week abortion restriction in 2010. Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma and Indiana approved similar bans in 2011. Missouri lawmakers approved a similar bill last week.
Reporting by David Bailey