By: Jess Braverman
Legal Director, Gender Justice
It has been 25 years since the Supreme Court of Minnesota ruled that the Minnesota Constitution protects our right to have an abortion and the decision to have an abortion. That case, Women of the State of Minnesota v. Gomez (Doe v. Gomez for short) was based on an anonymous plaintiff Jane Doe, and brought together six Plaintiffs to collectively represent the women of the state. The outcome of the case was monumental for Minnesota – providing us stronger protections than the federal constitution.
So who is Jane Doe?
Jane Doe was a victim of rape who sought an abortion in Minnesota. She wasn’t able to afford one because her health insurance was provided through Medical Assistance, which is government-funded health care for people with low-incomes. By law, Medical Assistance could not cover the procedure.
Six plaintiffs – Our Justice, WE Health, Midwest Health Center for Women, Meadowbrook Women’s Clinic, Dr. Jane Hodgson, and Jane Doe – brought the case to state court to challenge the law that prevented Medical Assistance from covering abortion. They argued for the first time that the Minnesota Constitution protects our right to abortion. The case made its way to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which ruled that our right to have and to decide to have an abortion is protected by the Minnesota Constitution. The court said:
“We can think of few decisions more intimate, personal, and profound than a [Minnesotan’s] decision between childbirth and abortion. Indeed, this decision is of such great import that it governs whether the [person] will create lifelong attachments and responsibilities. We therefore conclude that the right of privacy under the Minnesota Constitution encompasses a woman’s right to decide to terminate her pregnancy.” They then went on to provide greater protections than those at the federal level, writing, “Minnesota has an interest in assuring those within its borders that their disputes will be resolved in accordance with this state’s own concepts of justice.”
Our Justice, WE Health, and the other plaintiffs in Doe v. Gomez did more than make abortion accessible to the many Minnesotans on Medical Assistance. They ensured that our right to abortion is protected in the Minnesota Constitution, paving the way for Doe v. Minnesota, the current lawsuit filed by Gender Justice and the Lawyering Project, that challenges many abortion restrictions that continue to increase costs, intimidate patients and providers, and put abortion care out of reach for Minnesotans. Taking a page from Doe v. Gomez, we look forward to showing the courts that our state constitution protects our right to abortion care, and that all Minnesotans deserve to make decisions for themselves, their bodies, and their families, without the government interfering.