know about Minnesota is a vital abortion oasis for millions in the Midwest. Republicans are working to change that.
In early April, former Minnesota state senator Scott Jensen affirmed his longstanding opposition to reproductive rights. in a radio interviewJensen explained that he believes in banning all abortions, with a small exception for cases where “the life of the mother is in danger” after rape or incest. A few weeks later, after nine painful electoral rounds at a Minnesota Republican state convention that forbidden flamethrowers but allowed some unequivocal antisemitism To wriggle out of it, Jensen won his party’s endorsement to become the next Republican governor of Minnesota, a state that hasn’t had a Republican leader in more than a decade.
Along with his equally anti-choice running mate, former Minnesota Viking Matt”abortion will not cure a rape victimBirk, Jensen’s attempt to unseat incumbent Minnesota Governor Tim Walz (D) this fall is a troubling move to the right. surpasses even the extreme anti-abortion views of Tim Pawlenty, the last Republican to occupy the Minnesota Governor’s Mansion. More importantly, it comes during an election year under the shadow of the Supreme Court’s impending decision to reverse Roe vs. Wade and ending the federal right to reproductive health care as we know it, a decision that would codify a regional trend that has already turned Minnesota into a de facto abortion oasis in a desert of states that provide few, if any, some, accessible options for their own residents. Banning abortion in Minnesota, as the now GOP-backed Jensen/Birk campaign promised to do, would not only deny crucial health care to residents of the state itself, but also to the millions of people in neighboring Wisconsin, Iowa and the United States. dakota, all of which have full activation bans or six-week bans ready to go into effect at the moment Roe is repealed.
Despite its infamous if dubious reputation as a liberal haven, Minnesota’s status as an abortion oasis stems in large part from a 1995 court ruling that established abortion as a state constitutional right. That case, do v Gomezputs Minnesota in the company of only a handful of other states with similar protections, which Jensen, like every other major Republican opponent he defeated to become his party’s endorsed candidate, said he would like to remove. (Minnesota’s Republican gubernatorial primary is in August, where Jensen is favored To be victorious.)
“I guess we’re living in a bubble thinking that since we’re in Minnesota, abortion is protected,” Laurie Casey, CEO of WE Health Clinic in Duluth, tells Mic, adding that “since the [SCOTUS Roe] leakage, we are also starting to think about the long term and how it will really affect us.”
As Casey explains, his clinic, which already bills itself as “the only provider of abortion services in northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and the upper peninsula of Michigan,” it has glimpsed itsRoe future, even before the Supreme Court actually rules. “We’re already seeing some of the effects with people traveling from other states, especially to the Twin Cities area, to get an abortion at those clinics,” says Casey. “So people coming in from out of state, sometimes they make it harder for people in Minnesota … to get abortions because the wait time has increased.”
Casey says that some people have made a four-hour drive across state lines to access an abortion at the WE Health Clinic. “We are seeing people traveling [to Duluth] from the [Twin Cities] metropolitan area and even the Eau Claire [Wisconsin] area,” she says, “because sometimes you have to wait four to six weeks for them to get an abortion in Minneapolis.”
Even the concept of “regionality” is being examined and adjusted before a Roe-less future. Like Megan Peterson, executive director of the St. Paul chapter gender justice, she tells Mic, Minnesota’s status as an abortion oasis is as much about access as proximity. “In the post-Roe In the abortion access landscape, ‘regions’ are places people can drive and fly to,” Peterson explains. “The Minneapolis airport is a hub for Delta, and there are a lot of direct flights, including from Texas, and we’ve already seen an increase in patients from Texas to Minnesota.” She adds: “The Guttmacher Institute estimated last year that we could see a 300% increase [in overall travelers] entering the state.” To put that in perspective, Minneapolis Department of Public Health data from 2020 He showed just over 9,100 people had abortions that year, and about 10% came from out of state for the procedure.
For some patients, the introduction of medical abortion has eliminated the need to travel altogether. That could help ease the in-person load at the few clinics that will remain open if Roe falls, but opens up an entirely separate front for providers to handle as well. As Peterson explains, access to abortion “is not going to look the same as it did in the ’60s because now we have drugs available.”
These drugs, particularly the 1-2 cocktail of mifepristone and misoprostol, have altered the landscape of reproductive health by offering a non-surgical and logistically less burdensome option for terminating a pregnancy at home rather than traveling to a clinic. WE Health Clinic began offering telehealth appointments for medical abortions, which are most effective for patients early in their pregnancies, last September. But Paulina Briggs, a lab supervisor and patient educator there, tells Mic that people in neighboring states have already started coming up with solutions to get the pills.
“You must have a Minnesota mailing address and you must be in Minnesota when you speak to the doctor for the telehealth visit,” explains Briggs. “But because we are a border state with Wisconsin, people who live near Duluth, like in Superior [Wisconsin] — they can drive over the bridge and sit in a parking lot and get the telehealth visit with the doctor.” If a patient doesn’t have a Minnesota address or P.O. Box to receive pills by mail, she “can go to the clinic and just pick up her medications,” she adds.
Crucially, it’s not just patients who could travel to Minnesota in greater numbers if Roe falls. North Dakota’s only abortion provider, the Red River Clinic in Fargo, has reportedly begun what is discussed plans to move a few miles east to Moorehead, Minnesota, if the state’s activation ban kicks in. If the Red River Clinic does not move, Planned Parenthood has swore to begin offering abortion procedures in its Moorehead site.
“I think some of the protesters will come from other states to attack people accessing abortion services in Minnesota.”
For its part, WE Health Care is bracing for a wave of protesters outside its building if Minnesota becomes the region’s sole reproductive health care facility. Right now, there are between five and 15 protesters on any given day, but “If Minnesota becomes a destination for people, I think some of the protesters will come from other states to attack people accessing abortion services in Minnesota,” says Casey.
Given the state’s outsized role in abortion access in the region, it’s no surprise that Walz, the current governor, has put reproductive rights front and center in the upcoming gubernatorial election against Jensen. “What happens in Minnesota this November will affect millions of women not only in our state, but across border states who will lose access to safe and legal abortion if Roe vs. Wade it is nullified,” Walz told Mic in a statement. “I will never sign an abortion ban, and I will hold judges against the right to decide outside of our state Supreme Court. As long as I’m governor, Minnesota will be a safe haven for reproductive rights.”
Meanwhile, Jensen is a licensed physician who saying state Republican convention attendees that “I’ve never seen an abortion. I’ve never had an abortion, and I wouldn’t.” (The Jensen campaign did not respond to a request for comment from Mic.)
For now, abortion rights activists aren’t just working to bolster protections already on the books. They are actively trying to expand them further. even with Gomez Like Minnesota law, reproductive health care in the state, however, is constrained by a series of onerous restrictions and requirements, from reporting to the state to requiring minors seeking termination of pregnancy to notify both parents and require providers to inform patients of child support laws. . Much remains to be done to strengthen reproductive rights in Minnesota.
To that end, Peterson is hoping to bring down Roe could mark a turning point in the broader abortion debate. “My hope is that part of the result of falling off this cliff is that we can really undo what has felt like this intractable framework of what the abortion debate has been,” she says, adding that so far we’ve been ” caught up in this question of ‘What do you think or feel about abortion itself?'”
She hopes instead to shift the debate to one of bodily autonomy and government overreach. “It’s not about whether abortion is right or wrong or your religious beliefs or feelings or personal circumstances or whatever,” she says. “It’s actually: Should the government be able to force you to stay pregnant? I think if we can refocus the conversation there on interfering politicians, politicians deciding what’s best for you to have power and control over your body, the biggest decision of your life, a lot more people can find a space under that tent.”