Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) on Thursday signed into law bills protecting access to gender-affirming and reproductive health care and banning the discredited practice of conversion therapy, solidifying Minnesota’s place as a progressive stronghold in the largely conservative Midwest.
Minnesota is now a sanctuary state for both gender-affirming health care and abortion, meaning laws passed in other states that ban or restrict either procedure can’t interfere with treatment offered in Minnesota.
Executive orders issued by Walz last year and in March similarly established Minnesota as a safe haven for transgender minors wishing to obtain gender-affirming health care and a refuge for individuals seeking an abortion, as well as their doctors and their families.
“It’s done,” Walz said Thursday after signing House File 146, the gender-affirming health care bill. “Minnesota says welcome to a state that values you for who you are and protects you for who you are.”
Sixteen states have enacted laws or policies that ban gender-affirming health care for transgender youth, according to the Movement Advancement Project, including 13 that have done so this year. In three states — including North Dakota, which shares a border with Minnesota — administering gender-affirming health care to a minor is a felony crime, punishable by up to a decade in prison.
Thirteen states, including one that borders Minnesota, have enacted laws or policies that ban abortion at all points of pregnancy, other than in rare circumstances, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual and reproductive health and rights organization.
“In Minnesota, we’re protecting rights – not taking them away,” Walz tweeted Thursday after signing the bills.
Walz on Thursday also signed legislation that bans conversion therapy for minors and vulnerable adults, becoming the 21st state, along with Washington, D.C., to do so.
Major medical associations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association have condemned the practice, and those who have undergone conversion therapy have reported higher rates of anxiety, depression and suicidality in multiple surveys.
A 2020 report from the Williams Institute, a public policy think tank focused on issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity, found that lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the U.S. were nearly twice as likely to report having suicidal thoughts when they had experienced some form of conversion therapy.
A 2021 study from The Trevor Project, a national LGBTQ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention group, found that around 13 percent of LGBTQ youth had been subjected to conversion therapy to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, including 83 percent who underwent conversion therapy while they were younger than 18.
“No child will be subjected to this outdated, byzantine and cruel practice of conversion therapy,” Walz said Thursday during a signing ceremony.