ST. PAUL — Attorneys representing the state on Wednesday, Oct. 30, made their case to a Ramsey County judge as to why he should dismiss a lawsuit aimed at striking a slate of laws that place restrictions on abortions in Minnesota.
It was the first time state lawyers and attorneys representing a coalition of religious, medical and advocacy groups made their arguments to a 2nd Judicial District Court judge face to face.
Gender Justice and the Lawyering Project brought the lawsuit against the state on behalf of two medical professionals, the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis and Our Justice, arguing provisions in state law that outline requirements around abortion are unconstitutional and restrict medical professionals' ability to provide abortions as well as women's ability to access them.
The lawsuit takes aim at state laws that require a 24-hour waiting period to obtain an abortion as well as the notification of two parents of a patient under the age of 18. The laws also specify that fetal remains must be cremated or buried and they lay out specific constraints for who can perform an abortion.
Amanda Allen, senior counsel with the Lawyering Project, said the medical providers and their patients had been injured by the laws, as had the two groups also named in the lawsuit. And that should be grounds enough for the case to move forward, she said.
"This law makes it harder for a provider to provide and abortion and for a woman to access care," Allen said, pointing to laws that require physicians providing the procedure to name potential health risks of aborting a pregnancy.
Earlier in the day, about 30 people rallied near the courthouse to support the lawsuit's advancement. And they argued that the Minnesota Constitution guarantees the right to an abortion and the privacy around the decision to have an abortion.
And current state laws violate that constitutional right, they said.
"The fact is that these laws are unconstitutional and they are harming all Minnesotans," Juanluis "Pepis" Rodriguez, an attorney with the Lawyering Project, said. "And regardless of what happens in the Legislature afterward, these plaintiffs have every right to be in here bringing this lawsuit."
Minnesota Solicitor General Liz Kramer on Wednesday argued that the groups don't have the standing to bring the case as they couldn't clearly illustrate the harm the laws had caused to the groups. And she said while most challenges to abortion laws came before the laws could be enforced or just after they took effect, the laws in question ranged in age from 11 to 111.
“Here we have six different defendants, we have 13 statutes and four plaintiffs and they just haven’t connected the dots between injuries to each plaintiff and the 13 challenged statutes,” Kramer said.
And Kramer said without those clear points where the laws had injured the plaintiffs, it didn't make sense for the court to allow the case to advance.
"The proposition that the plaintiffs are asking the court to accept is that anyone with a really strong interest or passion in a big topic like abortion can come forward and challenge any statutes that touch on that topic," Kramer said. "It would be akin to saying any environmental advocate could come and challenge all the environmental statutes on the books and that would be impractical for our court system."
Judge Thomas Gilligan Jr. said he wouldn't make a decision about dismissing the case on Wednesday and planned to schedule a hearing to take up a motion from Pro-Life Action Ministries and the Association for Government Accountability to intervene in the lawsuit. The groups have said the state should've also argued that the groups involved in the lawsuit didn't have standing and were causing "unnecessary litigation and waste of taxpayer resources" in his motion to dismiss the case.