As I write this, I’m experiencing waves of nausea layered on top of the dull buzz of anxiety. The birth control I’ve been on for two years randomly decided to make my body go haywire. I’m getting rid of it, but what do I do next? Do I go free of synthetic hormones for a while and use a less effective method? How much would that increase my risk of accidentally getting pregnant? And even though I live in Minnesota, where my right to an abortion is written in state law, I’m still worried. What if anti-abortion activists succeed in overturning the FDA’s 20-year-old approval of mifepristone, one of two pills used in the increasingly common abortion medication regimen, and I have to use the second pill, misoprostol, by itself? That is still a safe and effective method, but it makes the process longer and more painful.
My anxieties and what-ifs are mild compared to what thousands of people are experiencing in states where abortion is restricted and banned. For people with uteruses, taking care of our reproductive health has always been a struggle. On top of that, while determining what is best for our bodies, we have to contend with the egregious actions of anti-abortion zealots who have weaponized the legal system.
According to an April Society of Family Planning report, nationwide there was a 6 percent decrease in legal abortions during the six months after the Dobbs decision. The New York Times assessed: “New restrictions and the obstacles they create — including travel logistics and expenses, long wait times, and confusion or fear about laws — seem to have prevented even more women than expected from obtaining legal abortions. . . . The women most likely to be [unable to travel] long distances [to obtain care in legal states] are poor, Black, or Hispanic. Teenagers, immigrants, and people with child care or elder care responsibility are also affected.”
This report only accounts for legal abortions obtained in formal medical settings. Rep. Cori Bush (D – MO) notes in a 19th News report: “Prior to 1973 [the year Roe was decided], the leading cause of death for Black women was the sepsis that’s related to unsafe abortions. And [I was] just thinking, ‘Wow, is this what [anti-abortion activists] want to go back to?’”
The inaccessibility of abortion’s total effect won’t be reported for years, but it is clear that the racial, socioeconomic, and geographic disparities in maternal morbidity are worsening.
Amidst this landscape, Minnesota has become a “travel hub” for abortion care. Pre-Dobbs, the monthly average number of abortions performed in Minnesota was 870. Researchers estimate that jumped to 1,183 from July through December 2022.
This month we feature the voices of reproductive health care providers; an overview of Minnesota laws that passed and stalled during the first legislative session with a “pro-choice majority;” and an essay on disability justice.
There is no world in which abortions do not happen. It is only a question of whether safe reproductive health care remains available to everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status and geographic location — something almost two-thirds of Americans support.