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On the constant fight for abortion access in Minnesota

We see every day how multiple barriers impact people seeking abortions, and how their impacts disproportionately fall on Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, queer and trans people, and disabled people.

An abortion rights rally in Minnesota.
An abortion rights rally in Minnesota.
Courtesy of Our Justice

In 1995, Our Justice joined abortion providers and patients to sue the state of Minnesota for restricting access to abortion in a case called Doe v. Gomezand we won. The Minnesota Supreme Court made clear that we have a constitutional right to access abortion. Now, more than  25 years later, we’re doing it all over again. Two years ago, on May 29, we announced another lawsuit, called Doe v. Minnesota, against the state of Minnesota to demand that the state live up to its constitutional obligation to protect abortion access. Even though Doe v. Gomez set the stage for Minnesota’s current reputation as an oasis of abortion access, the reality for people seeking abortion in Minnesota tells a much different story.

If you want to get an abortion in Minnesota, you’ll first have to make it past the multiple-week scheduling delay at most local clinics — lawmakers have severely restricted the number of people who can provide abortions, creating a gap between people who need abortions and people who can provide them. You have to find time to schedule an extra, medically unnecessary appointment to hear a script that anti-abortion lawmakers force abortion providers to read to patients. If you miss the incredibly specific window to hear the script, your abortion could be delayed. If you’re a minor, you have to notify both of your parents of your appointment, regardless of your relationship to them — or you’ll have to find time and resources to obtain a judicial bypass to get around this requirement. 

Shayla Walker
Shayla Walker
If your head is spinning trying to keep track of how all of this works, imagine being a patient trying to get a time-sensitive, urgent procedure like abortion. Imagine trying to navigate these restrictions while trying to figure out how you’re going to come up with the $600-$1,500 cost of the procedure, what you’re going to tell your boss to get time off work, how you’re paying for gas to get to the clinic, and who is going to care for your kids while you’re gone. Imagine trying to figure all of this out while state and federal challenges to abortion access are announced nearly every week. 

As one of the oldest abortion funds in the Midwest, we see every day how these barriers impact people seeking abortions, and how their impacts disproportionately fall on Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, queer and trans people, and disabled people. We spend our days filling funding requests for abortion care, helping patients navigate the complicated web of insurance coverage, coordinating hotel stays and travel arrangements, and providing information on abortion laws. We do this work because even though Doe v. Gomez ruled that Minnesotans have a right to abortion access, legislators continue to pass laws intended to make it as difficult as possible to access this essential, life affirming care. 

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As an organization advancing reproductive justice, we know abortion is a part of the whole fabric of someone’s life. It’s a decision that allows people to exercise the autonomy and self-determination they need to thrive, and it’s a decision that should be supported and resourced by our whole communities. We shouldn’t have to sue the state of Minnesota twice for the basic right to access abortion, but the restrictions that lawmakers have quietly passed force many people to disrupt their whole lives just to access basic health care. 

As we move through the discovery phase of the lawsuit and prepare for a trial in 2022, these restrictions will keep harming people’s ability to access abortion care — following a long history of people in power telling marginalized people what they can and can’t do with their bodies. We won’t stand for that, because we know we deserve a world where we all have the power, autonomy, and resources to make decisions about our own bodies — including safe, legal, accessible abortion care. 

Shayla Walker is the vision realization advisor at Our Justice, an abortion fund and Reproductive Justice organization based in the Twin Cities that provides financial and logistical support to people seeking abortions.

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