Minnesota town drops Texas-style anti-abortion lawsuit plan

Dec 4, 2022, 9:52 PM | Updated: Dec 5, 2022, 12:16 pm
FILE - In this May 27, 2020, file photo, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison answers questions...

FILE - In this May 27, 2020, file photo, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison answers questions during a news conference in St. Paul, Minn. The Minnesota town of Prinsburg has backed away from a proposal to let its residents sue abortion providers and organizations that provide abortion drugs by mail after state Attorney General Keith Ellison warned that the plan was unconstitutional. But the lawmaker behind the proposal, which is based on a Texas law, says he’s not giving up. (John Autey/Pioneer Press via AP, Pool, File)

(John Autey/Pioneer Press via AP, Pool, File)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota town has backed away from a proposal to let people sue abortion providers, including organizations that provide abortion drugs by mail, after the state’s attorney general warned that the plan was unconstitutional.

The retiring state lawmaker behind the proposal said Monday that he’s not giving up despite the unanimous vote by the Prinsburg City Council on Friday to drop the idea. It’s similar to a Texas law that deputizes private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps someone get an abortion.

Republican Rep. Tim Miller told The Associated Press that he still thinks the proposal is constitutional despite what Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison says. Miller said he and other supporters of the idea will try to enact it in other rural Minnesota communities, though he declined to name them.

“We are definitely moving forward,” Miller said, adding that he thinks it could even come up again in Prinsburg, Miller’s western Minnesota hometown of about 500 people where he first proposed the idea last month. Miller, who was first elected in 2014, has said he did not seek reelection so he could focus on the anti-abortion movement.

Ellison has made it clear that he would sue to block any community that tries to enforce such an ordinance.

“Any municipal ordinance which limits the fundamental rights of pregnant Minnesotans to receive an abortion is unconstitutional,” Ellison said last month in a letter to Prinsburg Mayor Roger Ahrenholz, noting that the Minnesota Supreme Court recognized abortion rights under the state constitution in 1995. “No city in Minnesota has the power to restrict the right to abortion or enact conflicting regulations on health care providers.”

With little discussion, the City Council voted Friday against further consideration of Miller’s proposal after Ahrenholz told members that the city had been provided with no case law or other legal authority to rebut the attorney general’s warning, according to video of the meeting from KARE-TV.

“In reaching its decision, the council took into account the position of the Minnesota Attorney General and its City Attorney stating that provisions described in the ordinance are unconstitutional and not within the legal authority of the city to enact,” officials later said on the city’s website. “The council plans no further discussion or comment regarding the proposed ordinance.”

The closest abortion clinics to Prinsburg are about 100 miles (160 kilometers) east in the Minneapolis area. But the ordinance would have been a barrier to distant clinics providing abortion pills to residents by mail. It would have allowed courts to award “not less than $100,000” for each violation. But it would not have allowed lawsuits against women who have abortions.

Ellison, who ran for reelection on a pledge to defend abortion rights after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, welcomed the vote, which likely spared the community from contentious litigation.

“I’m glad city officials respected their oaths of office & voted it down,” Ellison tweeted Sunday. “All Minnesotans have a right to safe, legal abortion. I hope all MN communities take notice.”

Any attempts by other Minnesota communities are likely to hit similar legal obstacles. In addition, Democrats who won full control of state government in November have vowed to reinforce the 1995 state high court decision with statutory language codifying abortion rights.

The Thomas More Society, a conservative legal group that helped develop the proposal along with Pro-Life Action Ministries, will pay the costs for communities that enact the proposal to defend themselves any legal challenges, Miller said. He contends the proposal would be legally defendable even if the 2023 Legislature codifies abortion rights.

“This is our way that we can fight back against the abortion industry in Minnesota,” Miller said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Zoubin Ghahramani, vice president of research at Google, speaks at the Google AI@ event on W...
Associated Press

Google has the next move as Microsoft embraces OpenAI buzz

Before the artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT was unleashed into the world, the novelist Robin Sloan was testing a similar AI writing assistant built by researchers at Google.
9 hours ago
Associated Press

Group’s lawsuit seeks to void Washington transportation law

A conservative legal advocacy organization is suing to halt the nearly $17 billion transportation funding bill passed by the Washington Legislature and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee last year.
9 hours ago
Associated Press

NJ local official found shot to death outside her home

SAYREVILLE, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey woman who was recently elected to her borough council was found shot to death in an SUV parked outside her home, authorities said. Sayreville Borough Councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour, 30, was found at around 7:20 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Middlesex County prosecutor’s office. She had been shot multiple […]
1 day ago
Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin, left, and Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson attend a jo...
Associated Press

Nordic PMs: Keep calm, we still plan to join NATO together

STOCKHOLM (AP) — In a strong show of unity, the prime ministers of Finland and Sweden on Thursday called for calm amid tensions with Turkey over their applications to become NATO members and reaffirmed their intent to have the two countries join the military alliance at the same time. A series of recent demonstrations in […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

US ambassador’s views on Hungary ‘irrelevant,’ minister says

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The Hungarian foreign minister accused the United States ambassador to Budapest on Thursday of trying to interfere in Hungary’s internal affairs, amid a growing diplomatic rift between the U.S. and the Central European country. At a news conference in Budapest, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto lashed out at comments in Politico this […]
1 day ago
Groundhog Club handler A.J. Dereume holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog,...
Associated Press

Beyond Phil: Other rodents that purport to ‘predict’ weather

Rodents predicting weather trends. Why? Just as fair a Groundhog Day question, though, is this: Why not? And more importantly, why should Punxsutawney Phil always get to, well, hog the press? The spring-heralding (or spring-delaying) small animal has taken firm root in some swaths of American culture. And while Phil and his Pennsylvania ilk are […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Minnesota town drops Texas-style anti-abortion lawsuit plan