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'I deserve the right to choose': Thousands rally for legal abortion access at Minnesota Capitol

The march comes weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal constitutional right to access an abortion and days after a state district court blocked several restrictions on abortion in Minnesota.

Abortion access rally - St. Paul
Thousands rallied at the Minnesota Capitol on Sunday, July 17, 2022, in support of legal abortion access in Minnesota.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Thousands rallied in support of legal abortion access in Minnesota on Sunday, July 17, weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal constitutional right to an abortion.

Crowds marched from St. Paul College to the state Capitol and chanted, "We will not go back," and "My body, my choice," as they hoisted signs blasting the U.S. Supreme Court and arguing that abortion is health care.

Doctors, policymakers and abortion access advocates voiced anger about the high court's ruling and urged Minnesotans to vote for lawmakers who would fight to maintain legal abortion services in the state during the event that featured speeches, musical performances and poems. And they vowed to keep up their efforts to ensure that women can legally terminate a pregnancy in Minnesota.

"We will march in the thousands to say, 'We will not go backward,'" Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said. "As long as we occupy the offices in this building, we will fight like hell to protect your right to an abortion."

They also cheered the decision from a Minnesota district court judge last week that struck down several restrictions on abortion in the state, determining that they were unconstitutional. The ruling blocked a 24-hour waiting requirement to get an abortion and eliminated a requirement that a minor seeking an abortion receive permission from both their parents or from the court.

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Demonstrators of all ages took to the streets despite the 90-degree heat in St. Paul. Several said they were frustrated by the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling and felt the need to join in solidarity with others who support the right to have a legal abortion.

“Abortion is health care. I deserve the right to choose, I deserve bodily autonomy," Allie Gronlund, 19, said as she and her friend Lilly Ehrke walked toward the gathering. "Women and uterus owners everywhere deserve bodily autonomy and we have every right to come out here and make it known that we deserve."

Gronlund and Ehrke traveled about an hour from Brownton and Glencoe, Minnesota, to make their voices heard. The pair said that they were encouraged to be around others who supported the right to an abortion after facing opposition in their communities.

Kathleen Kvern donned a homemade shirt that said "WTF SCOTUS" for the march and said that she was disheartened to see the right to an abortion limited or taken away from women. The 60-year-old from Minneapolis said she went to Planned Parenthood to have an abortion at 16 and wanted others to have the option to safe, legal abortion services, too.

"It was a safe, easy, private procedure that I don’t regret and I’m 60 years old and I cannot believe we are here today doing this. It is so depressing to me,” Kvern said. “I can’t believe the Supreme Court has been stacked with political cronies that are taking away fundamental human rights. It’s been 50 years, abortion is normal, we normalized it and now we have to be back doing this.”

A handful of anti-abortion demonstrators held up signs showing fetuses at different stages of development and yelled toward demonstrators that Jesus would not forgive those who aborted a pregnancy. Near the area where demonstrators supporting abortion access organized for the march, one man named Joseph held an anti-abortion sign.
The man from Greater Minnesota who refused to give his last name but agreed to be photographed said he wanted to talk with the people there and "offer an alternative to the false narrative going on."

“I don’t think that's a solution, taking a human being’s life," he said.

Joseph - anti-abortion
A man from Greater Minnesota named Joseph demonstrated near an abortion access rally in St. Paul on Sunday, July 17, 2022. He refused to give his last name but posed for a photo and said he hoped to talk to those in attendance about abortion.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

Abortion access groups and state and federal lawmakers said they'd continue pushing to ensure access to abortion in Minnesota and to protect the privacy of those who come to the state seeking abortion services. Several neighboring states banned or are set to ban legal abortion and Minnesota is expected to take on additional out-of-state patients seeking care.

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"We should celebrate the recent victories in Minnesota because we're going to need them. We shine as a beacon of hope and progress in the Midwest and our neighbors will desperately need us as their patients struggle to access basic health care," Dr. Sarah Traxler, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood North Central States, said. "We cannot back down because bodily autonomy should never be up for debate because abortion is health care."

MORE FROM DANA FERGUSON:
Several incumbent state legislators, particularly in the Senate, edged out competitors with more extreme views on COVID-19, election security and more.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter  @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email  dferguson@forumcomm.com.

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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