Approximately 1,200 miles of I-35 separate Austin, the capital of Texas, from St. Paul, Minnesota. Despite this distance, in recent months an increasing number of people from Texas have made the long journey to Minnesota for one reason only: to obtain a legal abortion.
In June, Texas passed SB8, a law that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy (before many people even know they are pregnant) and allows individuals to sue anyone who may have played a role in the facilitation. another illegal abortion. The law is a direct challenge to the standards set out in the 1992 Supreme Court decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, who said states could not restrict abortion rights until fetal viability – around 24 weeks.
The Supreme Court heard arguments regarding a challenge to the Texas law in October and is expected to render a decision next summer. But for now, the law holds.
And that’s not the only challenge to abortion rights on the horizon. On December 1, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on Dobbs vs. Jackson, a case from Mississippi that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. This law was declared unconstitutional by lower courts and is not currently in force.
Due to Texas law, abortion rights advocates in Minnesota are seeing more out-of-state patients, some of whom need financial assistance for travel and medical care. This has resulted in increased demand and costs. Yes Dobbs doesn’t turn out their way, Minnesota could see even more out-of-state patients.
influx of patients
Since Texas passed its restrictive abortion ban in September, several other state legislatures have introduced similar laws. For example, in Ohio lawmakers introduced a bill that would make abortion illegal at any stage of pregnancy. In Minnesota, abortion rights activists are nervous about a “heartbeat bill” that has been proposed to the state legislature.
But a complete abortion ban in Minnesota would require changing the state’s constitution, which is unlikely. Additionally, Gov. Tim Walz has said he will veto any anti-abortion bill that comes to his desk. Walz is running for re-election next year.
At OurJustice, an organization that helps people access abortion care in Minnesota by helping with transportation, accommodation, appointments and medication, staff members say they have seen an increase in the number of people. needing help in recent months, especially since Texas the abortion ban went into effect. The group sent $ 6,000 to a clinic in just October, which is almost triple what it would usually contribute.
âIn recent months we’ve had such an influx of people asking us for funding,â said Shayla Walker, Vision Achievement Advisor at OurJustice. âAnd we’ve even seen people travel from Texas to Minnesota. “
According to OurJustice staff members, the people they help are typically half from Minnesota and half from out-of-state.
âWe’re very used to people coming from Iowa and Wisconsin, and there have been a lot more requests from people further afield,â said Megumi Rierson, communications manager at OurJustice.
âHowever,â said Rierson, âwe are overwhelmed now. Roe deer falls, the combination of state-level restrictions [in other states] and the lack of suppliers here means we won’t be able to meet the need if it gets knocked down by the federal government.
Despite concerns for the future, Rierson and Walker said their main goal is to work with what they currently have. Even after the next Supreme Court arguments, decisions may not be delivered until next summer at the earliest.
“Were scared. And we have to prepare for the future. But we also tried to be very clear with people that, for now and for the foreseeable future, you can legally have an abortion in Minnesota,” Rierson said.
Reversing the precedent of abortion
Supreme Court to Hear Arguments Dec. 1 in Mississippi’s attempt to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the landmark court ruling that guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion.
Mississippi asks court to uphold state’s ban on most abortions after 15th week of pregnancy, state told court it should overturn Roe deer and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The Planned Parenthood case prevents states from banning abortion before viability, or the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb, around 24 weeks gestation.
The Supreme Court had previously dismissed the state’s appeals regarding bans on pre-viability abortion. If the court upholds Mississippi law, it would be the first ratification of a ban on abortion before the viability point.
âThe Supreme Court does not hear most of the cases that come before it. They choose and they normally don’t hear cases on well-settled issues, but for some reason they decided to hear this case, even though it has been well-settled for five decades now, “said Jess Braverman, lawyer. . director of Gender Justice, an organization that fights against gender injustices by representing people in legal matters and educating the public. “So it’s really disturbing, even just that they agreed to hear this case.”
The case could have several outcomes: The Supreme Court could overturn the Mississippi law, which means that Roe deer is maintained and the abortion policy in many states would remain as it is today. The court could enforce state law, which would effectively overturn Roe deer and hand over abortion laws to individual states. There are already several states with “induction bans,” which would immediately ban abortion if Roe deer is knocked down.
Braverman said one of the concerns of some abortion rights advocates is that the Supreme Court now has a majority of 6 to 3 conservative justices, some of whom have historically opposed the constitutional protection of access to the abortion, in particular Judge Clarence Thomas. Two new judges appointed during the Trump administration, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, have expressed anti-abortion views in past court cases. Barrett in particular has a long history of personal opposition to abortion rights, co-author of a 1998 law review article that said abortion is “always immoral.”
Minnesota “an oasis”
Because the right to abortion is protected by the Minnesota constitution, a reversal of Roe deer would not have immediate effects on lawful access in the state. But some neighboring states, including North Dakota and South Dakota, have trigger bans, and Wisconsin still has a pre-Roe deer abortion ban who could potentially come back if Roe deer is knocked down.
In Minnesota, current laws protect the right to an abortion until viability, which the state considers to be 23 weeks. After that, abortions are allowed when they are needed to save the life of a pregnant person.
According to Unrestrict Minnesota, a reproductive rights group, Minnesota currently has eight abortion providers. And according to OurJustice staff, there is an abortion care provider in St. Paul who offers in-office surgical services after 12 weeks of pregnancy, and a provider in Duluth who will provide surgical abortions for up to 16 weeks. . Most other early abortions are administered by pill. But with increasing demand in Minnesota, wait times are also increasing, meaning many patients can’t see a doctor for two to three weeks.
Such delays can often result in more complex procedures, which tend to be more expensive. Medical abortions are generally cheaper and less invasive than surgical abortions, but they are not recommended after 10 weeks of pregnancy. So a two-week delay experienced by many Minnesota patients could prevent someone from considering a drug option to a point where surgery is the only viable option.
âIf you look within the letter of the law, Minnesota looks like an oasis or an abortion access paradise,â Rierson said. âBut because of a million different things, including the stigmaâ¦ it’s so difficult, and all of the demand is placed on hub states like Minnesota. “
With only a few abortion providers in Minnesota and the increase in the number of out-of-state patients resulting in long wait times, organizations like OurJustice are struggling to help patients and meet demand. And the demand for these services will only increase if Roe is knocked down, Braverman said.
âBasically we would be inundated. We would be inundated, âBraverman said. âSo the question is, can we meet such a demand? Do we have the infrastructure, do we have the funding? Minnesota’s constitution protects usâ¦ but what access to abortion will look like if the states around us prohibit it is another question.