In response to the introduction of SF 731/HF 259, the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act, anti-abortion lawmakers, including Sens. Julia Coleman and Michelle Benson, have elevated dangerous, inflammatory rhetoric targeting Minnesotans who access pregnancy care — specifically exploiting the circumstances of pregnant people who have abortions later in pregnancy.
This is the same smoke screen anti-abortion lawmakers always pull out to distract people from their true extremist agenda: to ban abortion entirely and continue their decades long effort to use the government to control the reproduction and private health decisions of Minnesotans.
While that is offensive and dangerous enough, it must be named that anti-abortion violence is on the rise — and it's rising alongside white nationalist terrorist violence. As we are in the midst of both Black History Month and a worldwide reckoning on racial injustice, it's crucial we highlight that the push to control Minnesotans' ability to decide whether and when to become a parent is deeply rooted in white supremacy.
Controlling the reproduction of enslaved people — forcing Black women to produce generations of children to be stolen and trafficked — was the way enslavers maintained their labor camps. That's why it wasn't surprising that among the white nationalists that led the Jan. 6 insurrection were known anti-abortion extremists, including a convicted clinic bomber.
And we know that this rise in extremism is being stoked by right-wing disinformation — the same kind of willful deception propagated by Benson and Coleman this week.
So let's get the facts straight. The Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act, that Benson and Coleman are targeting, will:
• Establish the fundamental right of Minnesotans to make individual decisions about reproductive health care, including contraception, abortion and pregnancy.
• Prevent politicians from interfering, restricting or denying a person's fundamental right to make their own reproductive health care decisions.
• Prevent the state from discriminating against Minnesotans who exercise these fundamental rights on the basis of race, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, sex, national origin, age, immigration status, religious or disability status.
Pretty common sense stuff. So common sense, in fact, that the only way anti-abortion lawmakers can gin up opposition to the bill is to lie about what it does.
But as we've seen, when anti-abortion lawmakers use inflammatory language to lie to constituents and distort the truth, it encourages violence at clinics. It encourages violence against patients. It encourages violence against providers. With violence at clinics that provide pregnancy care already at an all-time high, let's be clear about the impact of Benson's and Coleman's inflammatory rhetoric: It is a call to violence. Anti-abortion extremists hear it, and we've seen time and again that they're willing to act on it.
These senators also know that the Minnesota Constitution already protects every Minnesotan's right to access abortion care; they know that 74% of Minnesotans agree that every person should be able to access abortion care without the government interfering. Anti-abortion lawmakers know their position flies in the face of our constitution and is unsupported by two-thirds of Minnesotans — and that's why they have to resort to distortions and falsehoods in their desperate attempt to undermine our rights.
UnRestrict Minnesota is a multiracial coalition of more than two dozen cross-sector organizations working to achieve full reproductive justice in Minnesota, where every person can decide if, when, and how to become a parent; raise healthy children in safe and thriving communities; and have gender and bodily autonomy.
If you are a person who would never have an abortion, would never have kids, already has kids, doesn't know if you want kids, can't have kids or has never thought about having kids, you have a place in our movement.
Regardless of what we individually might decide for ourselves, we all agree that the decision of whether and/or when to become a parent belongs to each Minnesotan — not the government. And not to Sens. Benson and Coleman.
Erin Maye Quade is campaign manager and coalition director, UnRestrict Minnesota, and is a former member of the Minnesota House.