A Ramsey County judge’s decision made it easier for Minnesotans to have abortions. Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court just weeks later.
Judge Thomas Gilligan, Jr.,’s July 11, ruling struck down most Minnesota’s abortion restrictions, including the requirement that clinics provide patients with misleading and confusing information about the risks involved in abortion at least 24 hour prior to the procedure, and that minors inform both parents, or obtain a waiver from the court, before obtaining abortions.
Minnesota abortion providers already feel the sweeping effects of the actions of the federal and state courts and are planning ahead to meet an expected increase in demand.
“The restrictions that were removed last week will make life easier for everyone.” It will make it easier to provide care, and it’ll be easier for patients from Minnesota, and out of state, to access care,” Sharon Lau, Midwest advocacy director at Whole Woman’s Health in Bloomington, said.
An island for abortion access
Minnesota is now an isolated region in the Upper Midwest, where abortions can be obtained thanks to Roe in Dobbs/Jackson Women’s Health Organization’s June 24 reversal.
Abortion will be banned in the Dakotas starting August. After the Dobbs ruling, Wisconsin abortion clinics have stopped performing abortions. The state also has a pre Roe abortion ban that is being challenged in court. Many believe Iowa will soon restrict abortion.
No waiting time or informed consent script
Although demand for Dobbs services may rise, providers claim that the lifting of restrictions by the state court judge will allow staff to work more efficiently.
Minnesota law has an informed consent provision that requires abortion providers to give certain information to patients 24 hours before the procedure. Any staff member could deliver a portion of this information.
When patients call to schedule appointments at WE Health Clinic, Duluth staff will usually provide some of this information. Paulina Briggs is the clinic’s laboratory supervisor. However, some information needed to be provided by doctors, usually over the telephone for patients convenience.
span style=”font weight: 400 So we had to arrange a time for a call with all our patients and doctors. Briggs stated that it had to be at least 24 hours before the actual abortion. “Then we had to give a bunch documentation proving that they got that information from the doctor span>
Briggs stated that the process involved a lot more coordination and paperwork. It also put a burden on patients who did not always have reliable access, especially if they were working or taking care of children in northern Wisconsin or the Upper Peninsula.
Sometimes the clinic might not be able to reach the patient and they would have to cancel the appointment. This is because they could not comply with the 24-hour law. Providers also claim that the information they were required by law to provide patients about the possible risks of having an abortion was incorrect.
span style=”font weight: 400 The information we had to provide the patient was not medically accurate, it used gendered terminology and it wasn’t information that was medically necessary,” Briggs stated.
Minors are now exempt from restrictions
Before the ruling of the state district court judge this month, minors had to inform their biological parents 48 hours before they sought an abortion. If the latter did not happen, the court would waive the parental notification requirement.
Minnesota had 2 percent of 2021 abortions patients under 18. Briggs stated that even in situations where both parents are involved in the child’s life and supportive, Briggs stated that the parental notification requirement could cause delays in patient care.
Briggs stated that the patient’s parents had to present documentation such as a birth certificate, IDs, and marriage records to prove they were indeed their true parents. Even in the best case scenario, parents may still find it difficult to leave work and sign the paperwork.
The documentation process was more complicated for minors who didn’t live with their parents, or were living with family members. The clinic could help coordinate a court hearing so that the minor could obtain a waiver from parental requirements. Briggs stated that this could be more difficult than usual and could also intimidate minors and delay patient care.
Lau of the Bloomington clinic agreed that this could have a negative impact on a patient’s mental well-being, particularly for those who don’t live with both their parents.
Abortion providers are seeking ways to increase their capacity to meet the increasing number of patients coming to Minnesota in the wake the Dobbs decision. Duluth’s Casey’s staff currently sees 16 patients per week on the one-day a week that they perform abortions. However, it is possible to expand this number to 20 patients in one day and add five to six more medication abortions.
Also, the Ramsey County judge’s decision to remove Minnesota’s requirement for abortion providers to be doctors has allowed WE Health Clinic to hire a nurse practitioner in order facilitate some of its medication abortions.
Laurie Casey, Executive Director of WE Health Clinic, stated that they will have a better understanding of patient needs in the fall. They’re likely to be busier when colleges in Duluth Superior are back in session.
Casey stated that they are just waiting each week to see what happens, and how many calls they receive.
Whole Woman’s Health, Bloomington, also believes the ruling will lead to more patients from out-of-state, especially those who may have previously chosen to travel to states that are closer and less restrictive than Illinois.
span style=”font weight: 400 We’ve seen patients as far as Texas and Ohio even before the Minnesota ruling. It will make things easier because they won’t have to wait 24 hours. People who would have gone to Illinois may now be able to go to Minnesota, if it’s closer,” Lau stated.
The clinic already has seen an increase in patients from out of state and calls since the Supreme Court ruling. Lau reports that around 20% of the clinic’s patients had moved out of state by July 1.
Lau stated that the ruling eases the burden on staff and patients in a post-Roe future.
span style=”font weight: 400 The staff is just thrilled that they don’t have to place these totally unnecessary restrictions on patients who come to see us,” Lau stated.