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Our View: If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the fallout will be far different in Minnesota, the Dakotas

From the editorial: "Abortion has been dividing the nation even before the landmark 1973 decision. ... No matter what the U.S. Supreme Court decides, the battle over abortion won’t go away. But it will be altered."

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Dave Whamond / Cagle Cartoons

Pro-life or pro-choice, those who followed — or couldn’t avoid all its coverage — the U.S. Supreme Court’s consideration this month of Mississippi abortion law may have been left wondering: If the abortion-legalizing Roe v Wade decision is overturned, what will it mean in my state?

In Minnesota, the short answer is: not much. At least not right away, according to the folks who follow abortion matters as closely as anyone.

“For the time being, we believe that Minnesota will be what we refer to as a safe haven for abortion,” said Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood for the north-central states of Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. Stoesz and others from the St. Paul-based district met virtually last week with the News Tribune Editorial Board.

There are two reasons for Minnesota’s status. Access to abortion is guaranteed in Minnesota’s state constitution as a result of a state Supreme Court case referred to as the Gomez Decision. Also, the Minnesota governor’s office and the state House are controlled by the DFL, which supports abortion rights.

Of course, neither reality is unchangeable. Minnesota’s political makeup, in particular, could be altered as soon as in next year’s election. Thus, Stoesz’s “for the time being” qualifier. It’s also why she feels that right now is a “pivotal moment for women in this country.”

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If Roe v. Wade is overturned, Stoesz said, “We know that it’s going to be very hard for pregnant women (in many parts of the U.S.) who need abortions. But we hope that in Minnesota we will be able to assist them with whatever they need in terms of travel or help with logistics or whatever they need so they can get the care that they need.”

The short answer in North Dakota and South Dakota promises to be quite different. Both states have what’s called a “trigger law,” meaning that Roe v. Wade’s reversal by the U.S. Supreme Court would automatically “trigger” the illegalization of abortion in those states. The Dakotas are among 26 states where abortion is expected to become illegal should the conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court side with those who are pro-life.

Abortion has been dividing the nation even before the landmark 1973 decision. Roe being overturned would be cheered by many who’ve been working toward that day for nearly 50 years. Count the U.S. representative for Northeastern Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District among them.

In a statement in September, Congressman Pete Stauber, a Republican from Hermantown, referred to himself as a “pro-life father of four and foster parent.” “I will always stand up for life and push back on the Democrats’ radical pro-abortion agenda,” he said. At a March for Life rally in Brainerd in January, he said, according to coverage by the Brainerd Dispatch, “Every fiber in my body will be dedicated to life. … The baby deserves the opportunity to breathe the fresh air, see the sunsets, see the sunrise. Fishing. Dancing. … Abortion violence is never the answer. Those babies deserve life.”

Just as passionately, Planned Parenthood and others are horrified at the prospect of abortion being banned and not readily and widely available any longer.

“When we say ‘abortion ban,’ it really means just an abortion ban for some people,” Stoesz said, referring to poorer women who wouldn’t be able to afford to just hop on a plane to a state where abortion is legal the way wealthier women would.

“In the United States, we have turned our back on women who need birth control. We’re turning our backs now on women who need abortions,” she said. “We have turned our backs in terms of family leave and in terms of child support — you know, a whole myriad of things that support families. And yet we claim to be pro-life. And, of course, we all want to be.”

This much seems clear: No matter what the U.S. Supreme Court decides, the battle over abortion won’t go away. But it will be altered, state by state and from election to election.

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