Jun 23, 2023 - Health

Here's how abortion in Minnesota changed post-Dobbs decision

Note: Includes abortions provided by clinics, private medical offices, hospitals, and virtual-only clinics. Months with less than 10 abortions are represented as 0. Data: #WeCount/Society of Family Planning and U.S. Census Bureau. Map: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Minnesota's largest abortion provider is looking to expand access — and its physical footprint— in response to growing demand from out-of-state patients.

The big picture: The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, issued one year ago Saturday, created a patchwork of abortion laws and restrictions across the nation.

  • Minnesota's status as a legal abortion state has made it a destination for patients who can no longer access the procedure in their home states.

Zoom in: A new report from the Society of Family Planning estimates that average monthly abortions in Minnesota jumped more than 30% following Dobbs. Providers say much of the demand is coming from people who live elsewhere.

  • Appointments from out-of-state patients at Planned Parenthood North Central States' centers doubled in the last year across its coverage area, which also includes Iowa, where abortion remains legal until 20 weeks gestation, and Nebraska, which allows abortion up to 12 weeks.

What they're saying: PPNCS chief medical officer Sarah Traxler recently told reporters that its clinics are "struggling and jumping through hoops" to open more appointment slots and expand other options for care.

  • "Really in our hearts, we know that if we can't see them here in Minnesota, there might not be anywhere else that they can go," she said.

What they're doing: The clinics expanded telemedicine appointments for medication-induced abortion for patients within the state, freeing up in-person slots for people who can't legally access abortion pills back home. They also made training on providing medication abortion an "automatic part of the orientation" for new providers.

  • Its Mankato clinic may move to a bigger facility to accommodate more patients, PPNCS president Ruth Richardson said. It's awaiting word on a grant that would allow it to expand services at its location in St. Paul.

Between the lines: Traxler said second-trimester abortions are up 11% in the region since the decision. She attributes the increase to out-of-state patients needing to navigate longer treks and more complicated logistics.

The other side: Some Minnesota clinics that provide resources to pregnant women that do not include abortion referrals are preparing to cut back on staffing and other services following the Legislature's decision to end a longstanding grant program for "crisis pregnancy centers."

  • Vaunae Hansel, president of the nonprofit Elevate Life, told Axios that the cut will make it more difficult for the group's 11 Minnesota centers that received state funding to stock diapers, pack and plays, and other supplies they donate to pregnant people.
  • "Minnesota mothers and families are going to bear the biggest burden from that decision."

Plus: Critics of legal abortion have expressed concerns that Minnesota will become a safe haven for people seeking an abortion, including late in pregnancy.

Zoom out: Dobbs also shaped politics and policy in Minnesota. Democrats say the decision motivated voters who support abortion rights to elect a DFL majority at the State Capitol in last November’s midterm.

What we're watching: Some Democrats have expressed interest in putting a measure asking voters to add abortion rights to the state constitution on the ballot next year.

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