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Minnesotans sound the alarm on abortion access

UnRestrict Minnesota

When Senator Michelle Benson snuck an amendment into the Health and Human Services budget bill targeting abortion providers for onerous regulations that have no connection to the health and well-being of patients in need of reproductive health care, Senate Republicans sent a clear signal that burdening Minnesotans with yet another abortion restriction is their priority in end-of-the-year budget negotiations.

UnRestrict Minnesota coalition partners and activists were ready with a rapid response, amassing at the state Capitol to ring bells, clang pots and pans, shake tambourines, and even bang a gong — whatever it takes to sound the alarm and get the attention of the lawmakers embroiled in budget negotiations inside.

“Abortion is essential health care, and we are sick and tired of being singled out for these backwards regulations every time we turn around,” said Angel Viewins-Medearis, clinic manager of Whole Woman’s Health Twin Cities. “Our staff and doctors provide excellent, high quality health care, and we do so with the compassion that all people deserve.”

Our rights are not negotiable. Abortion access is a right, not a bargaining chip.

“I say NO to outrageous, political, inhumane, cruel and unfounded legislative attempts to limit health care access,” agreed Alissa Light, the Executive Director of Family Tree Clinic. “NO to so-called ‘regulations’ on reproductive health providers who provide abortion care, when these clinics are already highly regulated, incredibly safe, and among the most trusted healthcare providers in the country.”

“There are real, systemic barriers that people in power put in place to make it as difficult as possible to exercise our bodily autonomy through abortion access,” reminded Shayla Walker, Vision Realization Advisor for Our Justice and a member of the UnRestrict Minnesota leadership team. “The effects of these barriers have always fallen disproportionately on Black people. Indigenous people. People of color. Queer folks. Disabled folks. People with low incomes. We are not surprised that politicians like Senator Benson are trying to sneak abortion restrictions into law, because we have seen it all before. It’s not new.”

The Supreme Court had just announced that very day that it has agreed to hear a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, adding a measure of urgency to the rally.

Should Roe v. Wade be weakened or overturned, Minnesota would be the only state in the upper Midwest where it is legal to access abortion care. All of our neighboring states have passed laws banning abortion, should we lose federal protections.

We are an “island” of abortion access — but the waters are rising. Even in Minnesota, restrictions on abortion and the sparse distribution of clinics make it difficult for many people to access the care they need.

Several of the reproductive freedom champions in the Minnesota legislature were able to slip out from the last official day of the legislative session to attend the rally and lend their support and encouragement, including Senators Mary Kunesh, John Marty, Jen McEwen, Erin Murphy, Lindsey Port and Ann Johnson Stewart, and Representative Kelly Morrison, M.D.

“Abortion care is healthcare. Please call your legislators,” urged Senator Lindsey Port, chief author of the Patients’ Right to Know Act. “Call your Senator. Call your Representative and tell them that you support the Patients’ Right to Know Act — because every Minnesotan has the right to receive medically accurate information from their doctors without interference from lawmakers.”

The rally concluded with supporters ringing bells and banging gongs for a full minute on the Capitol lawn, vowing to sound the alarm until barriers to access are removed for once and for all.

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