ROCHESTER, Minn. — Leaders in the Minnesota DFL Party warned Tuesday, Sept. 21, that the right of a woman to have an abortion is imperiled like no other time in recent memory. And if the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, as some believe it might, abortion rights will be thrust into the forefront of the 2022 election in Minnesota and around the country.
"The 2022 mid-term elections are taking place in the shadow of an all-out assault on the bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom of women everywhere," Sen. Melisa López Franzen, a Democrat from the Twin Cities suburbs, said at a Tuesday news conference. "Minnesota Republicans have made it clear that reproductive rights are on the ballot next year in our state."
Voters will vote for governor and every seat in the Minnesota House and Senate next year. The overturning of Roe v. Wade — an outcome that would essentially return the abortion issue to the states — would make the election even more consequential, Democrats said.
A few weeks ago, the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court let stand a Texas measure that would prohibit abortions after the point of fetal cardiac activity. In effect, it would ban abortions after about six weeks, which is before many women know they're pregnant.
And in December, the court will hear arguments on a Mississippi abortion ban that will give the justices the first chance to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Tim Stanley is executive director of the Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund. He said bills to fully ban abortion have been introduced in the Minnesota House each of the past three legislative sessions. The top three GOP candidates for governor — former Senate Majority leader Paul Gazelka, former Sen. Scott Jensen, and Sen. Michelle Benson — have all voted in favor of restricting abortions.
"Now more than ever before, we need elected leaders who will fight for the fundamental right of all Minnesotans to get the full spectrum of reproductive health care they need when they need it," Stanley said.
Steven Schier, an emeritus political science professor at Carleton College, said timing is everything in politics. And with the court set to hear a case that could reverse Roe, "that could make the abortion issue a very hot one in the November 2022 elections."
He said that by beginning to raise public attention about the issue now, the DFL is hoping to garner it "volunteers, contributions and votes next year." Mid-term elections have turnouts about 20% lower than presidential elections. Those who vote in midterms include a higher percentage of partisans than the larger presidential electorate.
"By exciting their partisan troops over the abortion issue, Democrats hope to prosper on Election Day," Schier said.
Yet, Democrats and abortion rights advocates said it wasn't clear how the issue would play out in Minnesota if Roe v. Wade were overturned and the Minnesota Legislature voted to restrict access to abortion. That's because of a Minnesota State Court ruling in Doe v. Gomez, which affirmed the legal and constitutional right to an abortion in 1995.
"We don't really know," Stanley said when asked about Gomez. "The Gomez case is an untested opinion so far. I think we have to see how the (Mississippi) cases comes out, No. 1. And then determine whether Gomez case will protect us or not from assaults to reproductive freedom in the state."
Mother tells her story
Tippy Amundson, a Planned Parenthood patient, said an abortion was not something she was considering when she got pregnant, but in the end, it was the only option available to her to preserve her ability to have children.
In 2016, she and her husband were excited to learn the sex of their baby during a 20-week ultrasound. She had bought decorations for a gender reveal party and picked a name. But those hopes were shattered when a genetic counselor at the clinic arrived with a legal pad filled with their baby's fatal flaws.
The counselor also told Amundson that her placenta was enlarged and growing into her uterus. If she waited more than three weeks, she would lose her uterus.
"It would not take my life, just the life I wanted," she said. An abortion "was the only choice I had."
Today, she and her husband are raising a 4-year-old boy. But after going through her ordeal, she can't help think how families in Texas would confront such a dilemma. Amundson knew she was pregnant at six weeks, but her baby didn't stop developing properly until week 12 — well outside the six-week window in which abortions would be allowed in Texas.
"The abortion procedure saved my uterus" and saved her ability to have children, she said. "My husband and I still want to add to our family and that is one big reason I'm here today."