From the Archives: Dr. Jane Hodgson

Remembering the Minnesota doctor who led the fight for safe and legal abortions. “For me it’s always been a health issue,” Dr. Hodgson said. “We know how to do safe, simple abortions and how to prevent pregnancy. It’s morally wrong not to use it for the good of society.”

For me, it’s always been a health issue.

Dr. Jane Hodgson
Dr. Jane Hodgson
Dr. Jane Hodgson

In 1970, three years before the landmark Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision, Dr. Jane Hodgson became the first and only doctor ever convicted of performing an abortion in a hospital setting.

Dr. Hodgson was born in Crookston, Minnesota in 1915 to a country doctor. She attended Carleton College and The University of Minnesota and trained at the Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Hodgson began her career as a pro-life internal medicine specialist, and switched to obstetrics because of a shortage in the department at her first hospital. After beginning work in St. Paul in 1947, she was astounded by the amount of complications she witnessed as a direct result of the ban on abortion. Women forced to undergo compulsory pregnancies, women who begged for abortions, and women with botched illegal abortions all sought help from Dr. Hodgson, who quickly began to consider abortion rights as not a religious or feminist issue, but a medical one.

With patient consent, Dr. Hodgson performed her first abortion on a 23-year- old mother of three who had contracted rubella early on during her fourth pregnancy. Hodgson spent two years in legal limbo before her case was nulled by Roe vs. Wade. During that time, she traveled to Washington D.C. to head an abortion clinic where she helped pioneer the first outpatient surgeryand patient counseling practices.

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In 1973, when she was allowed to continue her practice in Minnesota, she became an advocate for patient counseling and spent years traveling around the state speaking on the topic at clinics and schools.

Hodgson regularly flew to Duluth where she treated residents of rural Minnesota and Canada and served as the only abortion doctor within hundreds of miles, a practice she continued well into her 70s.

“For me it’s always been a health issue,” Dr. Hodgson stated. “We know how to do safe, simple abortions and how to prevent pregnancy. It’s morally wrong not to use it for the good of society.”

In 1981, Hodgson lent her name to Planned Parenthood’s suit against a Minnesota law requiring both parents to be notified within 48 hours about a minor’s access to abortion, regardless of the nature of the parent-child relationship. The law is still in effect today. Her testimony during that case (Hodgson vs. Minnesota) was instrumental in the fight for abortion legalization in Canada and elsewhere.

Hodgson died in Minnesota in 2006.