U.S. News

Minnesota governor vetoes 20-week abortion law

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton on Wednesday vetoed Republican-led laws aimed at restricting abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in medical emergencies, and a ban on public funding of abortions.

Republican leaders wanted Minnesota to join a half dozen other states in restricting abortions based on studies that suggest a fetus could feel pain at 20 weeks. The law also created possible felony charges and civil penalties for doctors who failed to follow its regulations.

“Imposing civil penalties and making it a felony for a doctor to deliver care that is in the best interest of the patient is unconscionable,” Dayton said in a letter notifying Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers of the veto.

Republicans holds majorities in the Minnesota Senate and House. The votes in both houses were largely on party lines and support fell short of the two-thirds needed -- 45 votes in the Senate and 90 in the House -- to override Dayton’s vetoes.

Republican Senator Gretchen Hoffman, a sponsor of the bill, said the state had “a compelling interest to protect children, babies, who can feel pain.”

The Minnesota bill was based on 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 second bill would have eliminated state funding for abortions. The state had paid about $1.6 million in 2009 for some 4,000 abortions.

Dayton noted in a letter to Zellers that Minnesota law already bans state abortion funding except in cases of rape or incest, health reasons or when a woman’s life is in danger. He also said the bill left the scope of the ban unclear.

Nebraska enacted a broad 20-week abortion restriction in 2010. Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma and Indiana approved similar bans in 2011. Missouri lawmakers also have approved a similar bill.

Editing by Greg McCune