New pro-life policies on fetal tissue research, pregnant students, drug abortions become law
ST. PAUL — Several pro-life measures became law yesterday as Gov. Dayton approved initiatives passed by Minnesota's pro-life Legislature. Fetal tissue research, pregnant and parenting students and reporting of "webcam abortions" are subjects of new state policies, according to Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL). The Higher Education omnibus bill offered by Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, and Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, contains multiple changes welcomed by pro-lifers. Fetal tissue research at the University of Minnesota will face increased scrutiny under new state policy (2017 Regular Session Chapter 89, Article 2, Sec. 19 and 27) originally authored by Rep. Abigail Whelan, R-Ramsey. The U of M must receive approval from an institutional review board prior to conducting fetal tissue research, and must seek to use tissue sources from fetuses that have died of natural causes rather than from abortion. The law directs the Board of Regents to report to the Legislature the steps it has taken to implement these fetal tissue research policies. It also requires the legislative auditor to conduct a review of fetal tissue research activities at the U of M. Information about parenting rights and resources must be provided to pregnant and parenting students at post-secondary institutions in the state under a new Higher Education provision (Article 2, Sec. 4). A grant program will fund services and activities to support these students. The Health & Human Services omnibus bill offered by Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, and Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, requires abortion providers to report "webcam abortions," in which an abortion drug is prescribed from a remote location via webcam. The new directive (2017 Special Session Chapter 6, Article 10, Sec. 95) was originally authored by Rep. Whelan. Legislators agreed that this method of abortion, in which the woman is not examined in person by the abortionist, needs to be reported separately in the state's annual abortion report released July 1. Planned Parenthood began offering webcam abortions at its Rochester facility in 2011. MCCL helped to pass legislation banning dangerous webcam abortions in 2012; it was vetoed by Gov. Dayton. "Minnesota is one of only three or four states in which women have received powerful abortion drugs by merely talking with an abortionist in another city via a computer monitor," said MCCL Legislative Director Andrea Rau. "This increases the risks that drug-induced abortions pose for women. The new law will shed light on the practice and frequency of these abortions in Minnesota." Earlier in the 2017 session, MCCL helped to pass bills to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion and to require licensing and inspections of abortion facilities. Both were vetoed by Dayton.