On Dec. 1, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a case about an unconstitutional Mississippi law that bans abortion pre-viability, at only 15 weeks. Legal analysts and abortion advocates predict that the majority-conservative court will use Dobbs v. Jackson as an opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that held that no state can ban abortion before viability.
Already, signs from the court are cause for concern. One month ago, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the merits of Texas SB 8 — an even more restrictive Texas law that bans abortion at six weeks and deputizes private individuals to enforce the law in exchange for $10,000 bounties. Twice, the court has refused to block the blatantly unconstitutional Texas law, allowing abortion to remain functionally illegal in the state for almost three months, and counting.
Despite 50 years of legal precedent, the Supreme Court is not behaving as if it believes abortion is a constitutional right. The consequences of the court's inaction are devastating for pregnant Texans, and research just published by the Guttmacher Institute shows that the Texas abortion ban is already creating a strain on abortion providers and funds in other states — even states that don't share a border with Texas.
If the Supreme Court does overturn Roe v. Wade, allowing any state without legal protections for abortion to implement total or near-total abortion bans, this strain on health care resources will increase exponentially, further threatening access to abortion care even in states where abortion remains legal.
Minnesota will feel this pressure acutely. Every one of our neighbors in the Upper Midwest has a pre- or post-Roe abortion ban on their books, poised to take effect should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade. That would make Minnesota, which protects the right to abortion in our state constitution, the only state in the region where people could seek safe and legal abortions.
Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that everyone who seeks an abortion in our state will be able to access care. For decades, even while Roe v. Wade has been the law of land, anti-abortion lawmakers have been quietly passing laws that restrict access to abortion care — an end-run around our legal rights. They have passed dozens of laws that make abortion care more scarce, more stigmatized, and more expensive, especially for pregnant people of color, young people, immigrants, LGBTQ people, people living in rural areas, people who are uninsured or underinsured, and people with lower incomes.
The fact is, our legal right to abortion has never been enough to guarantee that everyone who needs an abortion can actually get one. It's time to stop playing defense and demand more. Especially in states like Minnesota, where we already have strong protections, we need to recognize this moment as an opportunity to go beyond protecting Roe v. Wade and shift our focus to the state- and local-level work of expanding access to reproductive health care.
Going beyond Roe v. Wade will help mobilize this generation of reproductive justice advocates who are not only fighting for the legal right to abortion, but also to ensure that everyone, regardless of who they are or where they live, has the economic, social and political resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, sexuality and reproduction.
UnRestrict Minnesota sees our abortion advocacy as part of this broad fight for reproductive justice. This movement framework was developed by Black women, and it seeks, among other things, to reintegrate abortion advocacy and other social justice concerns like economic justice, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, disability rights and environmental justice.
It's time to build an intersectional, state-level movement for reproductive justice. We can make Minnesota a model for abortion access in a post Roe v. Wade world by shifting the fight from the federal courts to our home state, reintegrating the abortion access movement with other social justice struggles, and shifting the lens from legality to real abortion access for every Minnesotan, and everyone who will come to our state seeking care.
Erin Maye Quade is the advocacy and engagement director for Gender Justice, and the campaign manager at UnRestrict Minnesota. Shayla Walker is the vision realization adviser at Our Justice, a member of the UnRestrict Minnesota coalition and a plaintiff in the lawsuit Doe v. Minnesota.