Bodies, Buttons, and Bans: Reflections on Abortion Law Since Roe

The thing about working for a pro-choice organization is that everyone has an Opinion about what I do, and they’re always ready to tell me all about it. It’s what keeps my life so fresh and exciting. Honestly, though, it’s one of my favorite things. Strangers love the opportunity to talk about the most stigmatized issue in American politics, and let’s be real – so do I.

Which is basically how I ended up tabling for NARAL at the St. Cloud Pride festival a couple weeks ago, talking to a woman who remembers the day the Roe v. Wade decision came down in 1973. She was looking through the buttons strewn in haphazard display across the table, when she came across something and her smile fell off her face. It was a simple button, a classic: my body, my choice. She passed a finger over it, and told me sadly, “I used to have a button that said this. Decades ago.” She looked up at me, forcing the smile back. “Funny how we’re still saying the same things, all these years later.”


And that – that’s what always hits me hardest. It’s not the antis who call me a murderer or compare me to ISIS (a real thing that really happens); it’s the women who’ve been fighting this fight for decades who turn to me and tell me, “We thought we won. We thought it would be over.”

So how did this happen? How is it that, 43 years after Roe, I’m still handing out buttons that say the same damn thing that women have been saying for decades? How did we lose so much ground that we’re worrying about women dying in back alley abortions again? Lucky for me (and for you, dear reader), I like listening to Supreme Court cases for fun, and I’ve learned a lot about those little legal runarounds that make the difference between whether abortion is accessible de jure or de facto. Like, sure, abortion is legal and accessible by right and by law, but how much does that matter when it is, in fact, totally inaccessible? Roe made abortion legal, but it also stipulated that states have the right to regulate it based on two legitimate interests: health of the mother, and protecting potential human life. And wow oh wow, state and federal governments alike jumped on those two clauses like starving hyenas.

By 1976, three years after Roe, the Hyde Amendment outlawed any federal coverage of abortion; women on Medicaid and every other federally funded health insurance were banned from using that insurance to obtain an abortion. States went further, coming up with creative restrictions to discourage or outright prevent women from getting abortions. In 1983, the Supreme Court heard Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health (otherwise known as Akron v. Akron — why, Ohio? why?) and struck down provisions of Ohio law restricting access, including a 24-hour waiting period and a requirement that doctors tell women that a fetus is a human life from the moment of conception.

But apparently the decision saying, that has nothing to do with women’s health or any other legitimate interest wasn’t enough; less than ten years later Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey brought similar laws back to our highest court. The waiting period restriction was back before the Court, with the added fun of a husband notification clause. And the Court abandoned the strict scrutiny that had decided Akron and upheld nearly every aspect of the Pennsylvania law. In its place, we got the “undue burden” standard, giving states a free pass to restrict abortion as long as it didn’t pose an undue burden on a woman seeking abortion.

The Casey decision saved Roe, but the cost was high. The devil’s in the details, or, in the case of the undue burden clause, the lack thereof. Women who’d fought tooth and nail for access to safe and legal abortion watched the guarantee of Roe crumbling before their eyes as states passed ever-bolder restrictions on access. Waiting periods, parental consent, “informed consent” and state-mandated counseling, 20-week bans and other cutoffs popped up all over the country. The anti-choice movement managed to rename dilation and extraction (D&X) as “partial birth abortion” and next thing you know, we’ve got a federal ban.

And then there are the direct attacks on providers that became so prevalent we had to name them: TRAP laws, or Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. Laws that demand abortion providers be outfitted as ambulatory surgical centers – regulating hallway width and the number of bathrooms and janitorial closets. Laws that require hospital admitting privileges for providers, privileges that are almost impossible to obtain because of insurance reasons. All this, done in the name of “women’s health.” Women’s health, somehow threatened by one of the safest medical procedures – safer than getting your wisdom teeth out.

In 2013, the Texas state government passed two TRAP provisions collectively known as HB2. The new requirements – that clinics meet ambulatory surgical standards and providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital – had forced more than half of the abortion clinics in Texas to close their doors. The remaining clinics were overwhelmed with patients, and the number of desperate women attempting at-home abortions skyrocketed. And it wasn’t just Texas: the same laws – almost word-for-word identical – were popping up everywhere; we saw the ambulatory surgical regulations version here in Minnesota. It began to look like the end of Roe.

When the case went to the Supreme Court as Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, I was both terrified and ecstatic. Here it was, our chance to take back all the ground we’d lost – but only if at least one Supreme Court justice changed tracks completely on the issue of abortion. I was convinced we were looking at a 5-4 decision that would crush Roe for good. Even when Justice Scalia died, I didn’t dare to hope; after all, a 4-4 decision would still mean that the lower court ruling would stand, and even more clinics would close.

But wonder of wonders and miracle of miracles, Justice Kennedy finally decided that women are people after all, and we got a 5-3 decision in our favor. The Court declared HB2 unconstitutional; the burden, undue. And Justice Ginsburg used language open enough that I begin to hope again.

“So long as this Court adheres to Roe v. Wade…and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey,” she writes, “Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws like H. B. 2…cannot survive judicial inspection” [emphasis mine].

The Court broadened the narrow victory scraped by Casey, calling into question the lawfulness and constitutionality of the hundreds of restrictions. These are not the only undue burdens, Ginsburg seems to say, and I’m coming for the rest of them, too.

This week, NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota will celebrate our fiftieth anniversary, and I’ve been looking into our history. A letter from the president of the organization, dated January 25, 1973, starts with the joyful declaration, we won! I look at that, and I think of the woman at Pride, running her hand over buttons. I think of the women I’ve talked to while canvassing, those with pre-Roe abortion stories and those who marched with women’s lib groups. I think of Sarah Weddington, who argued Roe v. Wade and won. I think of Kathryn Kolbert, who argued Planned Parenthood v. Casey and saved Roe for another generation. I think of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose concurrence in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt both preserved Roe and expanded Casey.

And that, I think, is what I want to take with me. Not frustration and despair that abortion access is still a battle, but instead the spirit and determination of the women who have been fighting this battle for generations. So, to every woman who’s come before me: Yes, we’re still saying the same things. It is still my body, my choice. And we’re going to keep on saying that until we’re heard.

If you are interested in attending NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, tickets can be purchased here: https://act1.myngp.com/Forms/1592303943252180992


NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota 2016 Election Cycle Endorsements

After attacks on women’s reproductive freedom from stanch anti-choicers, NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota is proud to endorse the following candidates for this election cycle that will stand up for Minnesota women and families.

House of Representatives

03A    DFL    Rob Ecklund
07A    DFL    Jennifer Schultz
07B    DFL    Liz Olson
10B     DFL    Erin Wagner
13B     DFL    Matthew Crouse
19A     DFL    Clark Johnson
19B     DFL     John (Jack) Considine
20B     DFL    David Bly
23A     DFL     Zac Huntley
24A     DFL    Bev Cashman
25A     DFL    Linda “Wally” Walbruch
25B     DFL    Duane Sauke
26A     DFL    Tina Liebling
27B     DFL    Jeanne Poppe
29B     DFL    Steve Kilburn
35A     DFL    Andy Hillebregt
35B     DFL    Wes Volkenant
36B     DFL    Melissa Hortman
37A     DFL    Erin Koegel
37B     DFL    Susan Witt
40B     DFL    Debra Hilstrom
41B     DFL    Mary Kunesh-Podein
42B     DFL    Jamie Becker-Finn
43A     DFL    Peter Fischer
45A     DFL    Lyndon Carlson Sr.
45B     DFL    Mike Freiberg
46A     DFL    Peggy Flanagan
48A     DFL    Laurie Pryor
49A     DFL    Ron Erhardt
49B     DFL    Paul Rosenthal
50A     DFL    Linda Slocum
50B     DFL    Andrew Carlson
51B     DFL    Laurie Halverson
52A     DFL    Rick Hansen
52B     DFL    Mary T’Kach
53A     DFL    JoAnn Ward
55A     DFL    Mary Hernandez
56A     DFL    Jared Christiansen
56B     DFL    Lindsey Port
57A     DFL    Erin Maye Quade
59A     DFL    Joe Mullery
59B     DFL    Raymond Dehn
60A     DFL    Diane Loeffler
61A     DFL    Frank Hornstein
62A     DFL    Karen Clark
62B     DFL    Susan Allen
64A     DFL    Erin Murphy
64B     R         Emory Dively
66A     DFL    Alice Hausman
67B     DFL    Sheldon Johnson


7           Erik Simonson
8           Shawn Olson
9           Jason Weinerman
11          Tony Lourey
13          Michael Willemsen
20         Kevin Dahle
22         Brian Abrahamson
29         Janice Holter Kittok
35          Roger Johnson
36          John Hoffman
37          Jerry Newton
40         Chris Eaton
41          Carolyn Laine
44          Deb Calvert
45          Ann Rest
46          Ron Latz
48          Steven Cwodzinski
49          Melisa Franzen
50          Melissa Halvorson Wicklund
52          Matt Klein
57          Greg Clausen
59          Bobby Joe Champion
61          Scott Dibble
65          Sandy Pappas
66          John Marty



South Dakota Canvass Summit

Last weekend, 20 staff members and activists from NARAL’s South Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado affiliates were brought together for an intensive training on canvassing best practices. Attendees learned about the importance of door-to-door community engagement as a tool to build membership and raise critical funds for reproductive freedom. This summit served as the launch of the South Dakota summer canvass to organize to protect the state’s last remaining abortion clinic.


New canvassers learn about canvassing basics from our very own Jess! Jess is NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota’s Canvass Director

The summit is integral to NARAL’s aggressive, state-centric plan to build a nationwide network of pro-choice activists who will fight to defend and expand our reproductive freedom, including access to abortion and contraception.

The efforts of national and affiliate staff were featured in Sioux Falls largest paper, the Argus Leader.

The Stats:

The Summit was undoubtedly a success! In less than five hours, the newly-trained team:

  • Knocked on nearly 1,000 doors in Sioux Falls
  • Had over 300 conversations about TRAP laws
  • Signed up over 100 new pro-choice supporters
  • Raised almost $2,000 dollars
  • Garnered attention of SD electeds and candidates interested in collaborating with NARAL
  • Caught the eye of local anti-choice groups

Gabby, Field Program Organizer, trains newly hired South Dakota canvasser.

What’s more, the canvassers IDed folks on the door and found that the majority of the donors were registered Republicans. This finding inspired and motivated the attendees—especially the South Dakota team— as it further proved that 7 in 10 Americans support our work, regardless of political affiliation.

Susan Kroger, executive director of the South Dakota affiliate, says:

“I would like to thank the national team for choosing to invest in South Dakota and for helping us to organize this summit.  For this first time in South Dakota we have a paid canvass team and we are set to grow our membership exponentially. South Dakota needs us, and we couldn’t have done this without National’s investment.”


Alison, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri (left) and Susan, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota (right) before heading out to canvass in Sioux Falls.

If you’re interested in writing for NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota’s blog, please contact: info@prochoiceminnesota.org


Pioneer Press: Letter to the Editor

NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota Executive Director, Andrea Ledger, wrote a Letter to the Editor that was published yesterday in the Pioneer Press. Check out the post here. Below is the letter that was published.


At the Minnesota Legislature this year, and on Donald Trump’s campaign trail, we have seen a surge of attacks on women’s health care. As if this were not enough, there is now proposed state legislation that targets abortion clinics in hopes of shutting them down. These bills seek to add burdensome and medically unnecessary regulations to abortion clinics and, if enacted, would force four of the five Minnesota abortion clinics to close their doors. Instead of passing bills that address the needs of women and families, like 12-month prescription contraceptive coverage and paid family leave, anti-choice legislators remain focused on limiting access to safe and legal abortions.

Let’s be clear. These new abortion clinic regulation bills, as stated by the medical community, are medically unnecessary, and the new regulations border on absurdity, like requiring specific temperature settings for various parts of the building. The true goal of passing this legislation is to shut down abortion clinics. If abortion clinics close, women, especially in rural Minnesota, would lose access to safe abortion procedures.

Legislators should be working to ensure that abortions remain safe and to help families plan for pregnancies and their children. Providing 12-month prescription contraceptive coverage for women and providing parents paid family leave after the birth or adoption of a child are two critical issues that should be signed into law.

Access to a 12-month supply of prescription contraceptive coverage is a common-sense solution that will prevent unwanted pregnancies. A 2012 study showed a 46 percent decline in abortion rates among women who were given access to a year’s supply of contraceptives.

The other issue being ignored by some legislators is paid family leave. The Minnesota Senate passed SF 2558, which creates an insurance program that provides up to 12 weeks of partial wage replacement during family leave. This program will make it easier for both mothers and fathers to care for new children. It’s time for the House to act on this important issue.

Minnesota legislators need to focus on issues that make a positive impact on the well-being of families and women. Giving women access to 12-month prescription contraception coverage and allowing parents to care for their new child without the worry of losing a paycheck does that. Wasting time debating ventilation systems at clinics providing abortions might be a priority of Donald Trump and his supporters at the Legislature, but it is certainly not a priority of Minnesota.

Andrea Ledger


Run For Your Rights 2016 Results

Run for Your Rights 2016

St. Paul, MN 05/07/16 8:30 A.M.

NARAL 2016-22.jpg

Runners from this past Saturday’s race! Thank you to all the participants!

|Place| Name, Age, Gen|                               |Time|   |Pace|

1              Dave Quie 52 M                                  21:08     6:48

2              Chris Johnson 26 M                         22:34     7:16

3             Paige Wheeler 31 F                            22:37     7:17

4              Paul Pentel 66 M                              23:36    7:36

5              Betsy Hunter 37 F                            24:14     7:48

6             Michael Moore 36                            24:47     7:59

7             Dylan Anderson 26 M                    24:55     8:02

8             Erin Towner 25 F                           25:08     8:06

9             Dana Johnson 23 F                        25:16     8:08

10           Christina Zauhar An 28 F             29:04     9:22

11           Anna Svetnicka 24 F                     29:14     9:25

12           Brian Christiansen 30 M             29:26     9:29

13           Dan Kitzberger 32                           29:34     9:31

14           Atom Robinson 41 M                     29:35     9:32

15           Diane Von Ruden 54 F                   29:48     9:36

16           Emma Millspaugh 22 F                30:10     9:43

17           Lisa Cole 22 F                                   30:20     9:46

18           Dan Buck 44 M                                 30:22     9:47

19           Emily Essert 34 F                            30:50     9:56

20           Dawn England 39 F                        30:52     9:56

21           Carrie Fink 31 F                                30:58     9:59

22           Alexis Jones 34 F                             31:01     9:59

23           Kara Strahen 33 F                            31:01     9:59

24           Phil Jones 33 M                                31:03     10:00

25           Kate Sykes 32 F                                31:11     10:03

26           Billy Parsons 31 M                          31:11     10:03

27           Matthew White 33 M                     31:31     10:09

28           Mary Lahr-Hill 62 F                      32:44      10:33

29           Dianne Bell 52 F                              32:45     10:33

30           Gregg Lind 37 M                              32:51     10:35

31           Cathryn Beil 38 F                            32:52     10:35

32           Sarah Sinderbrand 33 F                33:15     10:43

33           Michaela Liesenberg 23 F            33:22     10:45

34           Susan Curoe 58 F                           33:35     10:49

35           Carol Curoe 54 F                            33:35     10:49

36           Sunny Beddow 31 F                      33:45     10:52

37           Timothy Matuseski 56 M           35:52     11:33

38           Dawn Matuseski 55 F                   35:52    11:33

39           Kathy Peterson 56 F                     36:09    11:38

40           Rodd Peterson 62 M                     36:09     11:39

41           Emily Campbell 33 F                     37:54     12:12

42           Sonia Brummer 32                       38:10    12:17

43           Maria Volpe 33 F                           38:22     12:21

44           Jake Sinderbrand 35 M                41:21     13:19

45           Beth Wischman 44 F                    42:34     13:42

46           Susan Davis 50 F                           42:34     13:42

47           Julie Roorda 35 F                           47:08     15:11

48           Meaghan Bryan 36 F                    47:09    15:11



Are you ready to Caucus?

Minnesota Precinct Caucuses will be held Tuesday, March 1, 2016. Never been to a caucus? Not sure how it works or where your caucus location is? Learn more here.

Find your party information and relevant resolution forms below:

DFL Party Platform and Resolution Forms

Republican Party of Minnesota

Independence Party of Minnesota

Green Party of Minnesota


NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota Resolutions

NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota

Non-Partisan Resolution Supporting Contraceptive and Parental Health and Wellbeing

 Whereas politicians should support women’s contraceptive, pregnancy and parenting options;


Whereas women should not struggle with birth control affordability, and if pregnant face barriers to abortion services or discrimination in current or future employment, and both parents should be allowed to take parental leave to care for their new child.

Therefore be it resolved that:

We call on all state and federal officials to ensure affordable access to birth control, ensure nondiscrimination of pregnant women in hiring or current employment, that parents be allowed leave to care for their new child.

Be it further resolved that:

A women’s access to safe, legal abortion be restored and protected.

Find a printable version of this resolution here to bring to your caucus —> NARALMNresolution

NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota with Pro-Choice Resources

Non-Partisan Resolution Supporting Public Funding of Abortion

Whereas politicians shouldn’t be allowed to deny a woman’s health coverage just because she’s poor;


Whereas a woman struggling to make ends meet needs to be able to make important, personal decisions about whether to end a pregnancy based on what is best for her circumstances, not how much she makes or where she gets her insurance;


Whereas when a woman needs to end her pregnancy, it is important that she has access to safe medical care.

Therefore be it resolved that:

We call on state and federal officials to ensure that every woman who receives care or insurance through the government will have coverage for abortion services.

Be it further resolved that:

We oppose political interference with decisions by private health insurance companies to offer coverage for abortion care.

Find a printable version of this resolution here to bring to your caucus —> ProChoiceResourcesNARAL


For any questions about Precinct Caucusing or about our resolutions, please contact us at: info@prochoiceminnesota.org



Why NARAL? A Campus Rep Series (Part 6 of 6)

Sophie Navarro
NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota
Campus Co-Rep

I first got involved with Macalester Activists for Reproductive Justice as a Junior and quickly came to realize how intersectional and important the work that NARAL does is. One of the things that I am most passionate about is learning more about how reproductive justice encompasses more than simply the pro-life vs. pro-choice narratives. It is important for us all to be aware of are the many subversive ways that access to services and resources is obstructed in our country. In particular, I look forward to continued conversations learning from and sharing experiences and knowledge with other folks around the Twin Cities who share my passions.

Kate Gallagherwhyclipart
NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota
Campus Co-Rep

I am a Senior at Macalester College. I am a Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Major and Psychology Minor planning on getting a Masters of Education in Higher Education Administration, specifically Student Affairs, after graduating in May 2016. I hope to pursue the intersections of diversity and multiculturalism programming and disability services. In addition to being a campus rep for NARAL and thus being a co-chair for Mactivists for Reproductive Justice, I also have leadership positions on my campus in the Chorale, the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, the Queer Women’s Identity Collective, and the Disability, Chronic Pain and Chronic Illness Identity Collective. In my not so abundant free time I enjoy reading about social justice, doing home improvement projects, sewing, baking, playing with my cat, and trying out new restaurants with my partner

NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota believes in the power of the student voice! We recognize the need to train new pro-choice leaders and we’ve developed a Student Organizing program that reflects that.

NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota’s Student Organizing program hires interns and works with pro-choice students at fourteen colleges throughout the state to educate and activate students on campus. Whether we’re talking about the availability of emergency contraception at your school, sex education, or deceptive crisis pregnancy centers advertising at your school, you can count on our student organizers being able to keep you informed.

The anti-choice forces are organizing at every level of government, in our streets, in front of clinics and in our schools! Their efforts affect women at every age, but much of their work focuses on college-aged women.

That’s why the pro-choice movement needs students to educate and organize on their campuses. Through campus organizing, you are helping to protect the right to choose and building the newest generation of the pro-choice movement. If you are interested in learning more about what’s going on at your campus, please feel free to contact your local campus rep by e-mail.

For a little perspective, we’ve asked all of our campus reps why they chose to continue the work NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota started on campuses. Throughout this series, you will get a better understanding of why this position is vital to our students and their communities.