‘Equal Rights Amendment’ that could have expanded abortion fails in Minnesota

Minnesota capitol The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in early May urged Catholics to join a rally to oppose the “Equal Rights Amendment” (ERA) at the state capitol in St. Paul. The proposal “fails to protect Minnesotans from discrimination based on religion, could constitutionally mandate legal abortion up to the moment of birth, and promotes harmful gender ideology,” the archdiocese said. | Credit: Shutterstock

A controversial proposed constitutional amendment in Minnesota, which the state’s Catholic bishops had opposed due to concerns it would expand abortion access, failed to advance this week amid partisan deadlock.

The proposed amendment, sponsored by St. Paul Rep. Kaohly Her of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), would have added several protected categories to the state’s constitution, in part saying the state cannot discriminate against a person on the basis of sex.

Within the category of sex, the proposal included “making and effectuating decisions about all matters relating to one’s own pregnancy​ or decision whether to become or remain pregnant,” as well as “gender identity or gender expression” and “sexual orientation.”

The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis had in early May urged Catholics to join a rally to oppose the “Equal Rights Amendment” (ERA), saying the proposal “fails to protect Minnesotans from discrimination based on religion, could constitutionally mandate legal abortion up to the moment of birth, and promotes harmful gender ideology.”

The ERA in Minnesota failed on Sunday evening after time ran out for the Democratic-controlled Senate to vote on it before the end of the legislative year, leaving the measure tabled. The amendment is dead for now until January 2025 unless a special session is called. Democratic Gov. Tim Walz said Monday he will not call a special session to try again to pass the ERA, the AP reported.

The proposed amendment, if the Senate had passed it, would have been submitted to the people at the 2026 general election. If ratified by a simple majority, the amendment would have taken effect Jan. 1, 2027. 

Bishop Robert Barron of Winona-Rochester, speaking in a May 6 video message on behalf of the state’s bishops, warned that the proposal constitutes “an imposition of the sexual revolution on the people of our state.”

The so-called right to abortion, which the Church has always opposed, would become enshrined in Minnesota’s constitution, making it “so fundamental that we can’t even legislate against it,” Barron said. In addition, he noted that the proposal lacks the possibility of conscientious objection, meaning churches, schools, and health care institutions guided by faith could be mandated to endorse practices or speech that violate their beliefs. 

At the May 8 rally at the Minnesota State Capitol, Bishop Joseph Williams, then an auxiliary of St. Paul and Minneapolis, spoke against the proposal and said moments like this show that what “unites us as people of faith is much greater than what divides us.” Williams was named coadjutor bishop of Camden, New Jersey, by Pope Francis on May 21. 

From a statutory perspective, abortion is already legal up to birth in Minnesota following the 2023 passage of the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act, which enshrined a constitutional right to “reproductive freedom,” ensuring the right to abortion in Minnesota up to birth for any reason as well as the right to contraception and sterilization.

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