It's Karen's Turn column: Minnesota after Roe v. Wade

Abortion foes are calling non-Republicans baby killers and a Wisconsin priest is telling Catholics they’ll go to hell if they vote blue. So let’s imagine something.

Let’s imagine the anti-abortion movement succeeds, and we live in a post-Roe v. Wade world. One in which the legality of abortion is up to each state, the way it used to be before the U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Let’s imagine that, after a bitter fight in St. Paul, Minnesota bans abortion.

Evangelical voters throughout the state raise roofs with their cheers. As the reality sinks in, they clasp their hands to their hearts. Tears stream down their faces and they give glory to God. Can’t you hear it? The praise band takes to the drums and guitars and worshippers try to sing but their voices crack from emotion. Almost 50 years of unceasing battle rewarded at last. America is on the road to redemption! Hallelujah!

Meanwhile, in Alexandria, Sarah is pregnant with her third child. She finds out that she is the unlucky one out of a thousand pregnant women to be diagnosed with cancer. She needs immediate treatment.


Sarah makes the difficult decision to end her pregnancy, but she needs permission from the Minnesota Abortion Panel, a board appointed by the legislature to ensure that women and doctors don’t falsely claim the few legal loopholes for getting abortions.

Her fate rests in the hands of strangers who know that their actions will be scrutinized, and that they will face repercussions if they approve too many abortions, or the wrong kind of abortion, or, really, any abortions at all.

Before Roe v. Wade was overturned, about 800 women a year died in childbirth, according to the CDC. There are a few more now. But what does sacrificing a few women matter when you have saved (you believe) millions of the unborn?

Sarah’s is just one of the cases the panel hears that day.

Also coming forward is Jamie, whose pregnancy has resulted from rape. About 3 million women in the U.S. will get pregnant because of rape in their lifetime, according to the CDC. Minnesota allows abortion in the case of rape, but Jamie must prove her case. She tells them that her ex-boyfriend forced himself on her and hopes they believe her. She doesn’t have evidence; no rape kit was done because she was too angry and ashamed to tell anyone.

There’s a woman who doesn’t appear before the Minnesota Abortion Panel that day because it’s too much trouble. She doesn’t get prenatal care. She does meth. She drinks. When her baby is born, it wails from the agony of withdrawal. Its brain is damaged. It will never be able to concentrate, or reason beyond the level of a 3-year-old.

A 20-year-old college sophomore whose birth control failed also doesn’t bother with the Minnesota Abortion Panel. She doesn’t want to think about a life growing inside her. She wants to go to class, not doctor’s appointments, and she also wants to continue playing volleyball. She hears about a doctor near campus who will perform abortions so she goes there. The doctor is masked. There are no framed medical school credentials. She’s not even sure if he is a real doctor. In fact, she doesn’t even know his name. She pays in cash and knows the abortion works because she leaves bleeding heavily.

There are no anti-abortion protesters around the secret clinic. Nobody urging her to choose adoption instead of abortion. The clinic is known only to pregnant women and those who help them. It moves around frequently to avoid detection.


There were once about 10,000 abortions each year in Minnesota, according to the Guttmacher Institute. In our post-Roe v. Wade world, has that changed? Nobody knows. The abortion industry remains, but it has vanished underground.

“It’s My Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

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