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Minnesota lawmaker plans another crackdown on female genital mutilation

Mary Franson

ST. PAUL -- A Minnesota state representative on Monday, Nov. 26, said she'll again try to crack down on female genital mutilation in the state.

Rep. Mary Franson, an Alexandria Republican, said she planned to bring a bill in 2019 that would make it a felony for parents to knowingly allow their daughters to undergo female genital mutilation. The effort comes less than a week after a federal judge in Michigan ruled that a federal law prohibiting the procedure was unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman ruled that Congress when it passed the law barring FGM in 1996, didn't have the authority to do so. Instead, the responsibility to outlaw female genital mutilation should fall to the states, Friedman said. He also dismissed some of the charges filed against a pair of doctors and several parents alleged to have allowed the ritual genital cutting of nine girls.

The procedure, also known as female circumcision or cutting, is against the law in Minnesota but there is no penalty for parents who knowingly allow it.

“This ruling underscores the dire need to pass my bill to protect girls from female genital mutilation, and send a message to parents that there are consequences for this practice," Franson said in a statement.

Franson in 2017 garnered bipartisan support for the bill in the House of Representatives, where it passed on a 124-4 vote. But the proposal never received a Senate hearing. She said she was prepared to dig in ahead of the 2019 legislative session.

Opponents to Franson's 2017 bill said it's unnecessary and could allow state officials to separate families without evidence that FGM is occurring. Twenty-seven states have passed laws prohibiting FGM.

The World Health Organization reports that more than 200 million women and girls in countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, as well as migrants from those areas, have been cut. And the procedure carries no health benefits, the organization reports, just health risks.

The WHO, as well as the United Nations Population Fund, deem the practice a violation of human rights. The UNPA reports that cutting is practiced across religious faiths and views FGM as a cultural practice.

Lawmakers are set to return to St. Paul for the 2019 legislative session on January 8.

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