Safe and Legal Abortion Options in Minnesota

Minnesotan healthcare providers and allies are preparing to help out-of-state visitors

Last Friday, the Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization declared Roe v. Wade to be unconstitutional, reversing half a century of a constitutional precedent. This returned the decision of abortion legality to the state level.

While many states across the country do not guarantee a right to an abortion, the procedure is not illegal in Minnesota, making the state an island of reproductive rights in the Upper Midwest. In 1995, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that abortion rights are protected by the state’s constitution in Doe v. Gomez. As of now, Minnesota maintains that a person has the right to choose whether they wish to terminate a pregnancy up to the point of fetal viability.

Minnesota, like other relatively abortion-safe havens such as Illinois, is expected to see an increase  in “abortion tourism,” meaning people will start traveling to a state specifically to receive abortion services. According to data from the Minnesota Department of Health, roughly 10% of patients seeking abortions in Minnesota were out-of-state residents before Roe v. Wade was overturned. In 2020, the majority of these out-of-state residents were coming from Wisconsin. Now, Minnesota healthcare providers and pro-choice advocates are preparing for an influx of visitors who want to exercise their legal rights to an abortion here.

There are several steps to get an abortion in Minnesota. Similarly to neighboring states, Minnesota requires a mandatory scripted counseling session, which can be done over the phone, before a mandatory 24-hour waiting period. Women who are traveling to Minnesota for an abortion need to be able to go to the clinic twice and plan for a place to to eat and sleep. The counseling session and 24-hour waiting period can be waived for medical emergencies or for a miscarriage.

Parents and legal guardians of pregnant minors must be notified before an abortion is provided, but they can apply for a judicial bypass that will waive the requirement.

After the first trimester (13 weeks), the abortion must be performed in a hospital or an “abortion facility,” not in a clinic. Abortion is prohibited except in cases of life or health endangerment after the point of fetal viability, usually understood to be between 20 and 24 weeks.

To meet the requirements set by the Minnesota Constitution, the abortion must be performed by a licensed physician, and that healthcare professional has to inform patients of the gestational age of the fetus, whether the fetus is able to experience pain and how to alleviate that after the 20-week mark, the medical risks of the abortion procedure, and the risks associated with carrying the pregnancy to term. Healthcare providers are legally required to inform patients of the cost of the abortion procedure and the available financial resources related to prenatal and neonatal healthcare. This information can be given over the phone without conducting a physical examination or any tests on the pregnant person.

Minnesota requires that every instance of a person undergoing the aforementioned counseling and every induced abortion performed within the state be reported to the Minnesota Department of Health. That information is then used to create an annual report. Names of physicians and patients are not included in this public report.

A poll commissioned by MinnPost and conducted by Change Research found that 67% of Minnesotans oppose a ban on abortions in all circumstances, and several of Minnesota’s current elected representatives have reiterated their support for abortion rights.

Gov. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) has signed an executive order that commands state agencies not to assist other states’ attempts to pursue civil, criminal, or professional sanctions against anyone seeking or obtaining abortion services in Minnesota.

Minnesota’s Attorney General Keith Ellison also has affirmed that his office will not prosecute anyone who travels from another state to legally perform an abortion, obtain a legal abortion, or for miscarriage care. The attorney general’s website says that the Minnesota Supreme Court determined that “the Minnesota Constitution offers broader protection than the United States Constitution of a person’s fundamental right to make reproductive healthcare choices without state interference.”

Laws in states surrounding Minnesota

In neighboring states, restrictions are more stringent. According to a Wisconsin law codified in 1849, the abortion procedure is illegal unless performed to save the life of the pregnant person, and providing an abortion is a felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Unlike in Minnesota, the Iowa Supreme Court determined that its state constitution does not provide a right to an abortion. Currently in Iowa, a patient can get an abortion before the 20-week cut-off date and must receive state-directed, in-person counseling with information designed to discourage abortion and must have an ultrasound. The physician doing the ultrasound must offer to show the patient the image. The patient must then wait 24 hours before the procedure. If the patient is a minor, their parent or parents must be notified, including in the case of rape or incest. Abortion may be performed at 20 or more weeks post-fertilization only in cases of severely compromised physical health.

Trigger laws have been enacted in border states to the west of Minnesota. In South Dakota, abortion is banned except in cases of life endangerment. Victims of rape or incest are not exempt. If the pregnancy meets the life-endangerment requirement, the patient must undergo state-directed counseling intended to discourage abortion. Unlike Iowa, the waiting period between the counseling and the abortion procedure has to be at least 72 hours and cannot include holidays or weekends.

In North Dakota, abortion is banned except in cases of life endangerment. Even then, a patient must undergo state-directed counseling intended to discourage the abortion. Parents of a minor must consent to the abortion procedure, including in the case of incest. In this state, the use of telemedicine to administer medication abortion is prohibited.

Where abortions are performed in Minnesota

Abortion, except in cases of life endangerment, is illegal in the state of Minnesota after fetal viability, so prompt action in scheduling an abortion procedure, allowing for travel time and the 24-hour waiting period, is important. As of now, the average waiting period for an abortion in Minnesota is two weeks. This may increase as abortion tourism from surrounding states surges in response to abortion bans.

Minnesota has eight legitimate abortion services providers and is anticipating getting a ninth. Four of these, located in Brooklyn Park, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Rochester, are Planned Parenthood health centers. Other metro area options include the Robbinsdale Clinic P.A. and Whole Woman’s Health Clinic of the Twin Cities in Bloomington. The latter will provide virtual abortion care to anyone with a Minnesota mailing address.

WE Health Clinic in Duluth is the only abortion provider in northern Minnesota and often offers its services to patients coming from Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Appointments at all these clinics can be made by booking online or by calling their offices.

Medication abortion options

For a medication abortion, information and mifepristone and misoprostol to help terminate pregnancy are available from Just The Pill, a telehealth clinic based out of Minneapolis that delivers abortion medication. In 2020, medication abortions were the highest number of abortions performed in Minnesota. Abortion pills induce a miscarriage and work only up to the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

This service costs $350, including the pharmacy fee, and it does not accept insurance at this time. Just The Pill also educates patients about financial resources and offers patient educators to help with the process. This option is not available for residents of North Dakota, where medication abortion is currently illegal.

The Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, N.D., is hoping to move across the state border to Moorhead, Minn., soon following Friday’s Supreme Court ruling. The North Dakota Abortion Defender is taking donations to support this effort through GoFundMe.

How to pay for an abortion

Especially without health insurance, abortion services can cost up to thousands of dollars, but there are financial resources. Patients with health insurance need to confirm what, if any, abortion-associated costs their provider is willing to cover. In addition to the cost of the abortion, there may be costs associated with travel, childcare, lodging, language interpretation, medication, and food.

It is unlikely all of these associated costs are covered by any nonprofit or donation service, but patients can still receive some financial support from the reproductive health advocates named below.

Several of Minnesota’s health clinics have partner organizations that help fund their services. Northeastern Minnesota’s H.O.T.D.I.S.H. Militia (Hand Over The Decision It’s Healthcare) partners with the WE Health Clinic in Duluth and can offer financial assistance to help with the costs of abortion services.

The Stigma Relief Fund is an abortion fund that serves patients at the Whole Woman’s Health Clinic in Bloomington. Our Justice is a nonprofit that assists Minnesota women in securing abortion access by providing information resources, lodging, transportation, and financial assistance.

The National Abortion Federation (NAF) represents, serves, and supports abortion providers in delivering patient care. As part of that mission, the NAF can also help patients with abortion costs on a case-by-case basis.

Based in Illinois, the Midwest Access Coalition (MAC) does not provide financial assistance for abortion procedures, but it can help with related costs of getting an abortion—such as transportation, accommodations, and childcare. MAC serves residents of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

The Justice through Empowerment Network (JEN) and South Dakota Access For Every Woman Fund can help South Dakota residents with some of the costs associated with abortion. Similarly, the North Dakota Women in Need Abortion Access Fund can help pregnant North Dakota residents who get in contact with the Red River Women’s Clinic.

Wisconsin’s Women’s Medical Fund is one of the oldest abortion funds in the country, and while Wisconsin has an abortion ban, the nonprofit can still provide information and financial assistance.

For residents of Iowa and certain counties in Illinois, the Iowa Abortion Access Fund can help patients find a clinic and potentially fund part of the abortion-related costs.

Additionally, employees of larger companies, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and Airbnb, may be eligible for financial assistance to cover the expenses of traveling outside their home state for an abortion.

Other resources

Organizations like Planned Parenthood are working to establish a network of patient navigators to help people find abortion appointments and navigate the increasingly complex maze involved in ending an unwanted pregnancy.

More informally, the “auntie network” is an online group committed to helping women who live in states with abortion bans or restrictions. Communicating through Reddit, they arrange travel for and offer help to “nieces,” or people seeking an abortion, by paying bus or air fares or arranging lodging for out-of-state visitors. Patients are encouraged to protect their privacy.

Additionally, anti-abortion supporters provide information and other options at pregnancy resource centers.

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