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Abortion facility bill will return to House Floor

Vigorous debate again surfaced Monday in a House committee over a proposal to regulate facilities that perform 10 or more abortions a month.

In the end, HF606 was approved by the House Ways and Means Committee and sent to the House Floor.

The bill reached the Floor last session, but not voted on. Its companion, SF616, sponsored by Sen. Michelle Fischbach (R-Paynesville), awaits action by the Senate Health, Human Services and Housing Committee.

Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a similar proposal in 2012.

Rep. Debra Kiel (R-Crookston), the House sponsor, reiterated her only intent is to bring oversight to ensure women are receiving safe medical procedures at these facilities.

“Women who seek abortions expect safe facilities,” Kiel said.

Calling the bill “an attack on women’s rights,” Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL–Rochester) said there is no evidence women in Minnesota are not receiving safe care. She said the introduction of similar legislation in other states resulted in women’s access to abortions being limited, forcing women to seek less safe methods for obtaining the procedure.

Liebling added that similar legislation is being scrutinized by the U.S. Supreme Court, so the legislation could inevitably face a legal challenge.

The bill would require facilities that perform 10 or more abortions a year to obtain the same license as an outpatient surgical center and be regulated under related state laws. Annual inspections would be required and the Department of Health would have the ability to revoke or refuse renewal of licenses to facilities under certain circumstances.

An annual licensure fee of $3,712 would be imposed on facilities impacted by this legislation.

Five facilities would be subject to the more stringent regulations for outpatient surgical centers, based on the 2014 Induced Abortions in Minnesota report to the Legislature.

Representatives for Women’s Health Center of Duluth gave testimony last year that it would cost the center an estimated $800,000 to come into compliance with the proposed regulations.

Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL–Mpls) questioned why are abortion facilities were being targeted for additional regulations, as opposed to all unlicensed medical facilities. Liebling concurred, noting facilities that provide invasive operations like colonoscopies were not being required to obtain the license, even though the doctor needs to be licensed.

Rep. Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake) compared the legislation to requiring a license for barbers. Liebling said barbers are licensed, similar to physicians, but barber shops are not licensed. 

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