Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has signed three new powerful legislative acts into law to protect individuals fleeing their home states to access abortions and gender-affirming care and to ban conversion therapy for minors.

The first act, the Reproductive Freedom Defense Act, prohibits the “enforcement in Minnesota of laws, subpoenas, judgements, or extradition requests by other states against people who get, perform, or assist with abortions” in the state. It aims to protect individuals from legal action from other states where abortion is illegal. “That march of bigotry and hate stops at Minnesota’s borders. Freedom is on the march in Minnesota, decency is on the march in Minnesota, compassion is on the march in Minnesota,” said Governor Walz as he signed the bill into law. Earlier this year, Walz added a “fundamental right” to abortion access into state law.    

Abortion providers in Minnesota have seen a sharp increase in patients from out of state. “For the first time, I regularly care for patients from Texas, Alabama, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and the list goes on and on,” said Dr. Sarah Trexler from Planned Parenthood North Central States. Safe haven states are needed now more than ever as states such as Texas and Oklahoma pass laws allowing private citizens to bring civil litigation against providers or anyone who helped a woman access an abortion. California, Colorado, and Washington have also adopted safe haven protections. 

The other two acts signed by Governor Walz focus on protecting the LGBTQ community in the state. The conversion therapy ban prohibits “offering conversion therapy in a way that represents homosexuality as a mental disease, disorder, or illness” or “changing sexual orientation or gender identity” for individuals under 18. 

The “trans refuge” bill shields parents that help their children access gender affirming care from legal consequences in other states where it is illegal. This bill is in direct response to action taken by GOP-led states, such as North Dakota, that have created felony penalties for healthcare professionals providing gender affirming care to minors. Access to this type of care is essential and “medically necessary” for transgender people who face alarmingly high rates of suicide. These new laws protect the mental health and safety of Minnesota children struggling with gender dysphoria and questions about their sexuality. 

Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal applauds Governor Tim Walz for taking action to protect the rights of women and the LGBTQ community in Minnesota.      

Sources: The Associated Press 3/20/2023; Twin Cities 4/27/2023; Star Tribune 4/27/2023

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