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Ventura Vetoes Abortion Bill
by Michael Khoo
April 14, 2000
Part of MPR's Session 2000 coverage
Click for audio RealAudio 3.0

Governor Jesse Ventura has vetoed a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions. The decision came after a week and a half of intense speculation on how the governor might act.

Hear Ventura
Listen to Governor Jesse Ventura's entire statement about his veto of the abortion legislation. (RealAudio 28.8)
THE SO-CALLED "Woman's Right to Know" bill required clinics to inform patients of the risks and alternatives to abortions. After receiving the information in person or by phone, women would have to wait 24 hours before undergoing the procedure. Failure to comply could have resulted in injunctions against clinics and fines. The proposal was the first major abortion legislation to land on a Minnesota governor's desk in roughly 20 years. And for more than a week, both sides of the debate grew frustrated by Ventura's silence on the issue. In announcing his veto, the governor said the bill was too intrusive.

"Sure, we tried to find a way," Ventura told his staff late Friday afternoon. "Together, we were willing to explore whether an acceptable bill could be achieved. And we learned something. We learned that there is no middle ground here. And so now we move on."

Nineteen states, including North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, have enacted waiting periods of up to three days. Five of them have been struck down or are facing legal challenges, according to the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.

"I think he probably showed you that he's as much your typical politician from the worst sense of the word that you can imagine."

- House Speaker Steve Sviggum
Supporters of abortion rights immediately expressed their relief following Ventura's decision. DFL Senator Jane Ranum of Minneapolis thanked the governor and assured him he had done the right thing. But she also said the abortion episode had been too close for comfort, and that it revealed a shift in the state's political landscape. "The House is solidly anti-choice," Ranum noted. "The Senate in Minnesota is now anti-choice by a slim margin. And this governor needed to think about this issue for nine long days."

Ranum said the bill should never have gotten to Ventura's desk, and that the abortion debate would figure heavily in this fall's legislative elections.

Though the bill had bipartisan support, the sting of Ventura's veto was sharpest for the Republican leaders who shepherded the bill through the House. They said from the beginning the Ventura administration had assured them the governor would sign the bill, which they felt was a moderate compromise. After learning of Ventura's veto, House Speaker Steve Sviggum said he was "very, very upset." The speaker said the incident revealed Ventura's true stripes. "I think he probably showed you that he's as much your typical politician from the worst sense of the word that you can imagine." Sviggum said. "Not holding to campaign promises, not holding to an agreement, an understanding that we had had, dishonoring that agreement, and bending to the wishes of a very small special-interest group."

Sviggum says he will try to keep the abortion debate separate from tax and spending decisions currently before the Legislature, but he added that relations with the governor had been compromised.