Corenia Smith, co-director, SPIRAL Collective; Megan Peterson, executive director, Gender Justice; Amanda Allen, senior counsel and director, Lawyering Project; Erin Maye Quade, advocacy director, Gender Justice; and Rev. Kelli Clement, assistant minister, First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis.

Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith
Corenia Smith, co-director, SPIRAL Collective; Megan Peterson, executive director, Gender Justice; Amanda Allen, senior counsel and director, Lawyering Project; Erin Maye Quade, advocacy director, Gender Justice; and Rev. Kelli Clement, assistant minister, First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis. Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith

At a news conference May 29, Gender Justice announced a statewide public education campaign to build awareness of Minnesota’s abortion restrictions and their effects.

The Minnesota Supreme Court in 1995 decided, in Doe v. Gomez, that the state constitution guarantees and protects the right to privacy when deciding whether to continue a pregnancy, or to seek abortion care, without government interference. However, lawmakers in the state have quietly passed laws since then that restrict abortion access, intimidate providers and patients, and increase healthcare costs. Gender Justice advocacy director Erin Maye Quade indicates that Minnesota has been one governor and a handful of legislators away from restrictive laws — such as signed into state law recently by Alabama, Missouri, and Georgia — and it is time to proactively protect, and reclaim, rights in Minnesota.

The Unrestrict Minnesota awareness campaign was announced by a consortium that included: Megan Peterson, executive director, Gender Justice; Amanda Allen, senior counsel and director, Lawyering Project; Rev. Kelli Clement, assistant minister, First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis; Corenia Smith, co-director, SPIRAL Collective; and Erin Maye Quade, advocacy director, Gender Justice.

A few of the laws that have been passed in Minnesota despite constitutional protections:

• Doctors are required to tell patients certain things before they are allowed to have an abortion, such as suggesting a link between abortion and breast cancer that is not medically accurate.

• Providers other than physicians can be charged with a felony if they prescribe medication or provide a procedure early in a pregnancy. On the other hand, in 16 states including Montana and West Virginia, advance-practice clinicians such as nurse midwives and nurse practitioners are allowed to provide early abortion care.

• People who decide to have an abortion must schedule a medically unnecessary appointment to hear a state-mandated script 24 hours before receiving care. This can especially impact women in rural areas of the state who have more limited access to clinic care.

• The state mandates that clinics and practitioners report a patient’s age, how many previous abortions and miscarriages they have had, and how they are paying for the abortion. Minnesota Department of Health also produces a public report that does not identify the name, but offers race, marital status, and county of residence, among other details.

• The state mandates that fetal tissue from an abortion be cremated or buried, which is not standard medical or public health safety protocol, and increases the cost of care for patients.

• The state requires that minors notify both parents of their decision — 48 hours prior — to have an abortion, even if there is an abusive relationship, or no relationship, with one or both parents. If the minor cannot notify both parents, they are required to go through the court system. Minors are not mandated by law to notify parents about any other medical decisions related to pregnancy.

Gender Justice executive director Megan Peterson said the legislative restrictions in Minnesota serve "no medical purpose," and "reflect patriarchal views" and "manipulation by government" designed to limit a woman's ability to decide when to carry a pregnancy and when to become a mother. She said we need to remain a state that provides safe, legal access to abortion care and respects our state's constitution about women and equality.

Rev. Kelli Clement of First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis said: "For far too long, we’ve allowed partisan politics to decide what basic health care is available to Minnesotans. It’s time for that to change. Minnesotans deserve high quality health care that’s not attached to a political agenda, and [does not restrict] the ability to make one's own personal decisions. As Congregational Humanists, we know that people who experience abortion and miscarriage need our compassion, trust, and support, and we are on their side."

Corenia Smith, of SPIRAL Collective, says that as a femme of color, and a nurse at Family Tree Clinic, she knows how her community is a target of those who wish to restrict access to reproductive health and birth control for political, not medical, reasons. She is part of this campaign, she said, because she believes the progressive values of Minnesota need to be reflected in its laws.

A majority of people (82%) in Minnesota believe that abortion should not be a political issue, and a majority (63%) want state laws to support abortion rights and access, says Quade. Find the survey results, part of a national poll, here.

— reported by Mikki Morrissette