DOE v. GOMEZ
The U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions in 1973 made abortion legal across the United States. But a 1995 court ruling in Minnesota went even further, giving our state one of the more extreme abortion policies in the nation.
Background of the decision
In 1978 Minnesota passed a ban on taxpayer-funded abortions, except when abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother and in cases in which pregnancy results from rape or incest. In 1993 a pro-abortion advocacy group filed a lawsuit claiming the 1978 law violated the right of low-income women to privacy and equal protection.
In 1994, Hennepin County District Court Judge William Posten ruled that women have a “privacy right” to abortion under the Minnesota Constitution (even though the words “privacy right” and “abortion” appear nowhere in the document). Judge Posten also ruled that the right to equal protection entails that the government, which pays for prenatal care for low-income women, must also pay for abortions for low-income women.
The decision was appealed directly to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which in Doe v. Gomez (1995) upheld and broadened the Posten decision, striking down Minnesota’s limits on abortion funding.
What Gomez did
Doe v. Gomez established a new state constitutional “right” to abortion on demand. This right would remain protected by the state Constitution even if Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion in the United States, were to be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
But Doe v. Gomez also obligates the state—and thus, taxpayers—to pay for abortions for low-income women who receive state assistance, something not required by the U.S. Supreme Court.
From 1978 to June 1994, Minnesota law limited
taxpayer funding of abortion to cases of rape, incest, and threats to the life of the mother among low-income women. In 1993, the state paid $7,000 for 23 abortions. In the first year after Doe v. Gomez took effect, taxpayers paid $687,000 for 2,986 abortions.
From the Posten decision through the end of 2017, the state of Minnesota reimbursed abortion practitioners more than $25 million for more than 85,000 abortions. In 2017 alone, $1.06 million of taxpayer money paid for a record-high 4,356 abortions. These statistics come from the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Taxpayers now pay for a record-high 44 percent of all abortions performed in Minnesota.
Ending taxpayer-funded abortion
MCCL-backed legislation would challenge Doe v. Gomez by prohibiting taxpayer funding of abortion in Minnesota. In 2011 and 2017 the state Legislature passed bans on taxpayer-funded abortion, but the bills were vetoed by then-Gov. Mark Dayton.