'It's not a haven': With limited capacity for abortion care, Minnesota clinics brace for influx

Rachana Pradhan and Christina Saint Louis, Kaiser Health News on

Published in Political News

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — A few minutes west of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport sits a brick, one-story building with opaque windows. From the nearby freeways, most drivers wouldn’t recognize it as the location of one of the few clinics in the state that provide abortions.

Should they approach its entrance, just off an Interstate 35 on-ramp, they might see anti-abortion placards propped against the pine trees that border the parking lot. Those who arrived on a recent Wednesday confronted declarations that included “Demand to see your ultrasound,” “Pregnant? We will help you,” and “Abortion kills a human being.”

Inside, they’d find Whole Woman’s Health of Minnesota, a clinic that opened in late February as uncertainties lingered surrounding the future of Roe v. Wade and abortion rights nationwide. The nonprofit Whole Woman’s Health Alliance — which also operates clinics in Indiana, Virginia, and Texas — opened the Bloomington location, in part, to make abortion care available to out-of-state residents migrating from places that already significantly restricted access.

It’s the kind of resource reallocation that has become commonplace in recent months: increasing available abortion capacity in states that providers and advocates believe will preserve access after the U.S. Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to an abortion on June 24, turning control over abortion access back to states.

In Minnesota, abortion is protected by the state’s constitution and is legal up to the point of viability, which is generally thought to begin at about 24 weeks, when the fetus can survive outside the womb. Abortions after the point of fetal viability are allowed only to preserve the life or health of the mother. Minnesota also is one of 16 states where Medicaid covers the procedure beyond limited circumstances allowed by federal law, a policy designed to boost access for low-income women.

Yet the reality of obtaining an abortion in Minnesota is complicated. Minnesota has just eight clinics that provide abortions. Most are in or near the Twin Cities and offer abortions only during the first trimester. One, a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Paul, provides abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.


Those who work with Minnesotans who seek abortions say barriers, both legal and practical, forced some to travel to Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin even prior to the Supreme Court’s decision.

“It’s not a haven,” said Shayla Walker, executive director of the Minneapolis-based abortion assistance fund Our Justice. The nonprofit helps patients cover the cost of the care, which can exceed $1,000, and related expenses like lodging. “Just because other people have worse laws doesn’t mean our laws are good.”

Clinicians and abortion rights advocates say Minnesota patients regularly wait at least two weeks for appointments at state clinics — a delay that could push people past the window when an abortion is an option.

“Even over this year working with abortion funds and clinics here, they’re sending people from Minnesota out to other states because there are not enough appointments,” particularly for those in the second trimester, said Megan Peterson, executive director of Gender Justice, a nonprofit that advocates for gender equity.


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