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Life Cities

Current Minnesota Cities who have passed or are considering a “Life City” ordinance

  • Prinsburg; Status, pending

What are we doing and why are we doing it?

The State of Minnesota is in a unique position of states after the US Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson to reverse Roe V. Wade and return the decisions on abortion back to the states instead of the Court. For many states like North and South Dakota this was great news for unborn children because their lives would now be protected. In Minnesota we are controlled by two state court decisions. The first was the State Supreme Court decision in 1995 Doe v. Gomez. This decision said that abortion is a “fundamental health right” and required taxpayers to pay for abortions of low income women. The second came in July of 2022 when a Ramsey County Judge in Gender Justice et al v. State of Minnesota removed almost all restrictions on abortions through live birth in Minnesota.

Because of these court cases and because surrounding states have passed or are passing “pro-life legislation”, the State of Minnesota has become an abortion destination state. We now not only have unfettered abortions in Minnesota for our population, but we also now have women coming from other states. Also, if they qualify based on income, Minnesota residents will be paying for these abortions as well.

All of this has resulted in access to abortions not only at abortion centers but also across the state through mailing of chemical abortions to women in their homes and a mobile abortion vehicle being developed to bring surgical abortions on the road to a town near you. Even worse, there are hospital systems in Minnesota planning to provide abortions through their system. Basically, abortions will be available anywhere in the state.

And now, after the elections, a pro-abortion Governor, State Senate, and House of Representatives will be able to place into Minnesota law unrestricted abortions through live birth. How do we know they plan to do that? Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman said so herself to WCCO’s Esme Murphy, “It will be one of the first, if not the first bill passed…it’s one we think we can expedite.”

Is there anything that can be done to stop this? Yes. PLAM Action is working with cities throughout the state to pass “Life City” ordinances which would subject anyone who provides an abortion in that city to a civil lawsuit. This is a legally technical strategy. Below are answers to the most common questions regarding these ordinances. If you would like to discuss Life Cities please contact Tim Miller, timothy.miller@plam.org.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Life Cities

1.      What is a “Life City”? A life city is a city that passes an ordinance which says, “Any abortions performed in this city are subject to a potential civil lawsuit.”  This does not make abortions illegal in that city, but someone can sue for damages in district court.

2.      Are these ordinances voted on by a city council? Yes. There are procedures for any Minnesota city that must be followed to approve any ordinance in that city. This typically includes a requirement for a public notice and public hearing(s), readings of the ordinance over a certain number of regular city council meetings, a public comment period, etc. The process for your city can be provided by the city clerk or on their website. There will be no final vote by a city council the first time the ordinance is presented.

3.      Are they legally binding? Yes. Because the City Council votes on the ordinance they have equal weight to all other ordinances in that city.

4.      Could someone file a lawsuit against the legitimacy of a Life City ordinance? Yes. Any legal action by a government body is subject to a court challenge.

5.      What happens if a court finds the ordinance unlawful? A court may find portions or all of the ordinance unconstitutional. If a portion of the ordinance is ruled unlawful, there is a rule of severability which states that if a portion is determined unconstitutional, that decision will not negate the entire ordinance. If a court rules that the entire language of the ordinance is unlawful, the ordinance will cease to be in effect. After a district court makes a ruling, there may be appeals.

6.      If the State of Minnesota passes a law guaranteeing abortions, will a city ordinance against abortion do any good? That depends on how a potential law is passed. There is a rule of law called “preemption” which says no political subdivision (city or county) can pass anything different than what the state law says. In Minnesota cities have fought this rule on many other laws. It would be difficult to pass a preemption rule, but it is possible. Until then, we must press forward with our plans.

7.      Is abortion considered a crime in a city that passes the ordinance? No. The “Life City” ordinance provides civil remedy if an abortion is performed in the city, but no criminal action can be taken.

8.      Who can be sued? Any individual or organization who performs an abortion or who knowingly provided support in the performance of the abortion.

9.      Who cannot be sued? The mother of the unborn child, the father of the unborn child, or anyone who unknowingly provides assistance in the performance of an abortion (for example, providing a ride). The city in which the ordinance is passed cannot be sued for an abortion performed nor can any of its employees or elected officials.

10.  Will this cause a “witch hunt” in a city or create neighbor on neighbor violence? No. The intent of an ordinance is to discourage abortion providers from doing business of any sort in that community. It will essentially sit dormant on the city books unless someone files a lawsuit against an abortion provider. The individual would need to provide evidence of an abortion having occurred. Because of the private and often secretive nature of receiving an abortion, a lawsuit would only occur when the parties involved choose to file such a lawsuit or an organization does so on behalf of the individual who has an abortion.

11.  Will this force women to not be able to get an abortion? This ordinance will do nothing to stop the procedure from occurring in Minnesota. It will act as a deterrence subject to a civil lawsuit against the provider and anyone knowingly assisting in the abortion in any way.

12.  Could someone be sued 20 years later? No. There is a six year statute of limitations for any legal action.

13.  Will this cost the city money? There is no cost to the city from the ordinance or the defense of the ordinance should that become necessary. There is a nationally recognized pro-life attorney group which has guaranteed the legal defense at their expense of any city life ordinance originated through PLAM Action.

14.  Who will enforce the ordinance? The ordinance is subject to a potential civil lawsuit. Unless a lawsuit is filed, there will be no actions in the event of an abortion in that city.

15.  Why are “Life City” ordinances being pursued? A detailed answer can be provided by emailing Tim Miller: timothy.miller@plam.org. The short answer is, because of past court decisions in Minnesota there are essentially no restrictions or regulations on abortion through live birth at the state level. In June 2022 the US Supreme Court determined these decisions can be made at the state level. However, there is no way to pass significant laws making abortion illegal in the state because of the State court cases. The belief by state and national pro-life organizations is that in Minnesota, this is our only legal path to stop abortions in Minnesota. There are other states following a similar strategy who also have obstacles to limiting abortions in any other way.