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Following nine years of defeat, including two vetoes and countless votes, the Woman's Right to Know Act (WRTK), backed by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, finally became law in 2003! Pro-life Gov. Tim Pawlenty eagerly signed Woman's Right to Know on April 14, just hours after its final passage in the state Senate by a 41-24 margin, calling it a "moderate, reasonable piece of legislation."
In 2003, pro-life Tim Pawlenty had just been elected Governor; pro-life Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, was re-elected to be Speaker of the House; and the Senate was under the leadership of a new Majority Leader (John Hottinger, DFL-Mankato) for the first time in about 30 years. Both the House and Senate had pro-life majorities, but Senate Majority Leader Hottinger was not pro-life, and the pro-abortion zealots around him exerted enormous pressure to not allow Woman’s Right to Know to become law.
So, what happened? Well, it was a real circus …
Senate leadership would not allow Woman’s Right to Know out of committee, and while pro-lifers had a majority, they lacked the super-majority needed to pull the bill out of committee. That meant the only way to pass the legislation was to amend (attach) the provision onto another bill that was considered. From the pro-abortion perspective, the Senate was smartly not allowing any bills to be brought up on the floor that had any relation to provisions in Woman’s Right to Know; thus, there were no appropriate bills to which to attach the legislation.
However, pro-lifers in the House saw an opening when they noticed a simple bill that repealed an old section of law dealing with circuses. They added another "repealer" to that bill (as is customary in the Legislature), but the added section of law being repealed dealt with abortion issues. Now the "circus" bill was the perfect place to add Woman’s Right to Know, and that’s just what pro-life members in the House did. The House passed the bill and sent it back to the Senate (where it had previously passed as the initial bill repealing the outdated circus law).
Unsuccessfully, Senate tried to stop pro-life bill
Because the Senate previously had passed the bill (although in a much different form), senators had only two options: accept Woman's Right to Know without any changes or send it to a conference committee where the bill could be gutted.
Majority Leader Hottinger immediately moved that the bill be sent to conference committee, with the intent of making significant changes to the bill there, effectively rendering it useless. Sen. Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, defended Hottinger's hostile motion in a passionate speech, imploring senators not to vote for passage of Woman's Right to Know—just as he did in 1994.
Perseverance pays off
After two hours of debate, Hottinger's motion to send the Woman's Right to Know Act to conference committee failed by a vote of 31-35. The Senate then voted to send the bill to the Governor, who quickly signed the bill into law four hours later.
Unfortunately for Hottinger, he failed in his task to stop Woman’s Right to Know at all costs. (He was ousted as Majority Leader following the 2003 session.) The pro-life initiative proved to be the first major piece of legislation passed in 2003.
Minnesota’s law best in nation
Minnesota’s Woman’s Right to Know law was considered the strongest informed consent law in the country when it passed, as it was the first to include information on fetal pain and one of only a few to include information on the abortion-breast cancer link.
Minnesota continues to be leader on informed consent issues
2005: Minnesota adds Unborn Child Pain Prevention Act to Woman’s Right to Know, requiring women 20 weeks or later in pregnancy to be offered pain-reducing medication for their unborn child.
2006: Minnesota again broke new ground in the pro-life movement by being the first state to require that a woman seeking abortion because her unborn child is diagnosed with a fetal anomaly incompatible with life must be informed of available perinatal hospice services and offered this care as an alternative to abortion.
Be sure to check out MCCL’s Legislative Accountability Ratings to see how your legislators voted on Woman’s Right to Know.
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