Minnesota will likely be an island in the Midwest for abortion seekers for the foreseeable future as the Supreme Court decided on June 24 to strike down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision guaranteeing abortion access across the United States.
The 6-3 decision in response to a Mississippi lawsuit over the constitutionality of banning abortions at 15 weeks interprets the U.S. Constitution as not guaranteeing the right for anyone to have an abortion. It relegates decision-making about the legality of abortion to individual states.
North and South Dakota to the west have so-called “trigger laws,” which means their abortion bans would go into effect when the Supreme Court decides to overturn Roe v. Wade. South Dakota’s ban went into effect immediately.
Rae McCrank was among the 2,000 disappointed and angry people who marched through downtown Minneapolis hours after the decision was made. “It’s really hard to go to work and do hobbies when someone you’re next to has more rights than you,” said McCrank.
Fabiola Gretzinger, another protester, agreed: “I think pregnancy is the most private decision a woman can make, and regulating that is the biggest invasion of privacy.”
“I am a mother of daughters. We need protection at all times,” added Jacqueline Thompson, who felt proud and humbled as she waited in tears for demonstrators to pass by the bus she was driving. “Get your laws off of our bodies.”
Rochita Chatterjee is worried about what the decision means for her family in Texas, where an abortion law will go into effect 30 days from the Supreme Court decision. “They’re pretty scared and are thinking about moving,” said Chatterjee, adding that her sister was protesting outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
Like Texas, North Dakota has a similar ban ready to go into effect that will force its only abortion clinic, the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, to accelerate their move to Moorhead, directly across the river in Minnesota.
Abortion remains legal in Minnesota, with some restrictions. For example, abortion seekers have to wait 24 hours from seeing a provider to undergo the procedure, unless it is an emergency. The provider also has to notify the abortion seeker of the assistance and benefits they may receive should they carry the fetus to term. Doctors must also advise those seeking an abortion over 20 weeks of what pain the fetus may experience.
Both Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison have vowed to protect the rights of anyone seeking an abortion as long as both are in office. But these laws may be up in the air over the next year, as both the governor, attorney general, and all 201 House and Senate members are up for re-election.
Staying in the Fargo-Moorhead area is important for the Red River Women’s Clinic because, in addition to North Dakota, they also serve much of South Dakota and northwestern Minnesota. They are also starting to see more Black patients as more immigrants and people of color move to the area.
“We’re seeing a lot more folks coming, moving to North Dakota from other places, because of the economic situation here,” said the clinic’s Executive Director Tammi Kromenaker. Over the last decade, North Dakota’s Black population tripled, from 7,960 in 2010 to 26,783 in 2020. And although the 1,171 abortions they performed in 2020 is down from 1,247 in 2011, the number of Black abortion seekers is increasing from 39 in 2011 to 166 in 2020.
In Minnesota, however, the number of Black abortion seekers remains steady. In 2021, abortion providers saw 2,584 Black women, compared to 2,566 in 2011. Most of the abortion providers are in the Twin Cities.
If the Red River Women’s Clinic is unable to relocate to Moorhead, those seeking abortions would have to drive or take the train four hours to either Duluth or the Twin Cities, making it out of reach for those who lack money for transportation, lodging, and time off from work.
Someone has started a GoFundMe fundraiser to ensure that the clinic can pay for what they need to furnish the new space. As of Sunday evening it had raised over $600,000, blowing past their $500,000 goal and prompting the fundraiser to double the goal so they can offer telehealth service.
Nina Page came out to the protest not just because of the Roe v. Wade decision, but also because of the recent decisions around gun control and due process. “[I’m here] to be with like-minded people who understand not only my reproductive rights but also the reproductive rights of all women and women of color,” said Page.
She remains hopeful. This year is an election year, and she believes people need to vote. “I don’t need them to make my decision, just make a decision. Be part of the process. Would we be standing here today if those 40% voted?” said Page, citing Ferguson, Missouri as an example of how voting affects change.
Henry Pan is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.