Currently in America, abortion rights are in a more precarious position than they have been in a generation. The most conservative U.S. Supreme Court in decades will be ruling on newly enacted laws in both Texas and Mississippi, with the potential of overturning Roe v Wade.
Unrestricted access to reproductive health care, including abortions is extremely important, and losing that access will hurt some communities more than others. Particularly vulnerable communities include people of a low socio-economic status, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community and people living in rural areas. I urge Minnesota lawmakers to move to invest in reproductive health care and abortion clinics in our state regardless of the Supreme Court decisions.
Minnesota law will not be directly impacted by the decisions handed down by the courts regarding the Texas and Mississippi laws as a 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling gives constitutional protection to abortion in Minnesota. Given the current political make-up of Minnesota and our Supreme Court, it is unlikely that that ruling will be overturned anytime soon. Multiple states bordering Minnesota would immediately outlaw abortion however, and many reproductive health clinics will be forced to shut down as a result. This will lead to decreased access to abortion for Minnesota residents living on the border of those states. There will also be an increased number of residents from other states traveling to Minnesota to access abortion and other health care. This increased demand will likely put a strain on providers in Minnesota, and could lead to increased waiting times, difficulty finding appointments and more. These obstacles will hamper access to health care for people who cannot travel or take time off from work, and those who must rely on clinics like Planned Parenthood the most. Minnesotans and residents of surrounding states who can afford to go to specialists or more expensive clinics, and those who can afford to travel and spend time waiting for abortion access will be less impacted, although it will still be an undue burden for them as well.
The conversation about socio-economic status and health equity in Minnesota cannot be had without acknowledging the huge ethnic disparities in our state. People of color are much more likely to be in a lower socio-economic status in Minnesota and are also less likely to have the ability to take time off from work to access an abortion. They also continue to experience worse health outcomes across the board than white Minnesotans. Ethnic disparities are also large in surrounding states, and there will be a similar impact for residents of those states.
Although some would argue that a reduction in access to abortion would have a positive impact, and even save lives, research shows that reducing access to reproductive health care leads to increased maternal mortality, unsafe and unregulated abortions, reductions in preventative care treatment for other reproductive issues and an overall decline in health outcomes. These impacts will be most felt by populations that rely on community clinics for overall reproductive health care and will exacerbate existing inequities. Without access to health care for all people, free of government interference, we are doomed to continue perpetuating harm onto vulnerable populations, and equity in health care and other areas of life cannot be achieved. It is a moral imperative that laws restricting access to reproductive health care and abortion are not allowed to go into effect.
If Minnesota were to incentivize doctors and organizations to open reproductive health clinics throughout the state, including near the borders of surrounding states, then some of the potential harms can be mitigated. Expanding access to reproductive health care in rural Minnesota would be beneficial in any scenario as currently, 61% of Minnesotan’s live in a county without a clinic that provides abortions. Minnesota can take steps to reduce inequity in our state, and to safeguard the rights of people not only in Minnesota, but also in surrounding states. This has been an urgent issue in Minnesota for years. Current events at the federal level that endanger access to abortion and reproductive health care have only increased the visibility and urgency of this issue.
Kelsey Einertson is a masters of Public Health candidate at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health