A bill introduced last week in the Minnesota House would make it a gross misdemeanor to interfere with “access to reproductive health services and facilities.”
Under Minnesota law, a gross misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $3,000.
“A person who by force, threat of force, or physical obstruction intentionally injures, intimidates, or interferes with a person or entity because the person or entity is a reproductive health services client,
provider, or assistant, or in order to intimidate a person, entity, or class of persons or entities
from becoming or remaining a reproductive health services client, provider, or assistant, is
guilty of a gross misdemeanor,” states House File 3749, introduced by Rep. Heather Edelson (DFL-Edina).
The bill passed out of the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Division Thursday and was referred to the House floor for further consideration.
“Women should never have to choose between their safety and their health care. A woman’s right to access medical care shouldn’t be accompanied by feelings of threat or intimidation. I have heard many stories that underscore why this legislation is important in the state of Minnesota,” Edelson said during the hearing.
Maggie Meyer, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota, testified in favor of the bill, which she said would codify in state statute the U.S. Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act of 1994.
“Given the lack of enforcement of the current administration, states are in a unique position to make sure that laws that may get repealed or go unenforced at the federal level will still be enforced at the state level,” said Meyer. “It is more important than ever to safeguard our ability to make our own health care decisions and to make sure that patients and providers feel safe and secure.”
Republicans on the committee said the bill is redundant and a potential violation of First Amendment rights.
“I see this as a ban on certain kinds of speech,” said Assistant Minority Leader Peggy Scott (R-Andover).
The bill would also make it a gross misdemeanor to use a telephone to “intentionally disrupt the normal functioning of a reproductive health services facility” or to block vehicles from entering and exiting.
Ann Redding, a pro-life sidewalk counselor, said she and her peers are “out there peacefully” and don’t use intimidating tactics.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Planned Parenthood Protester” by James McNellis. CC BY 2.0.