‘We’re living in the dark ages’: Those who experienced life pre-Roe speak out against the Dobbs ruling
At the Rochester for Roe rally in Peace Plaza on Saturday, July 9, 2022, three participants spoke about life before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and where the U.S. is headed in a post-Roe world.
ROCHESTER — Marcia Latz marched on Washington twice as a young adult in the 1970s advocating for abortion rights, before the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for Roe v. Wade, the case that, until June 24, protected the right of women to seek abortions.
Now, she’s 70 years old, fighting for those same rights.
“It's unbelievable that I'm still fighting for the same thing,” Latz said. “I'm not here marching for myself. I'm marching for my sisters and my family members that are younger. It's hard to believe that we had a right for 50 years, and it's been taken away.”
She, like many women across the country, remember the time before Roe, when “back street” abortions were the norm.
“I remember back then. This is what women were doing,” Latz said, holding up a poster with a drawing of a metal coat hanger and the words ‘never forget’ written across the drawing. “I heard about botched abortions. I heard about friends who went to New York to get a legal — well, not legal abortion, but an abortion that at least was done by a doctor.”
Paula Craigo, a retired anesthesiologist, was a resident at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta following medical school. She described covering the kidney service one night.
“A young woman was admitted to me one night. They said she had kidney disease. She had high blood pressure, swollen glands, protein in her urine,” Craigo recalled. “There was just one problem. She was six months pregnant by my exam. So she didn't belong on a medicine service. She belonged on OB because she had a life-threatening complication.
“They tried to prolong her pregnancy to save the baby, and she died. She was 21 years old. Her baby died with her.”
Andy Good, a former gynecologist that worked at Planned Parenthood in Rochester, told the large crowd gathered at Peace Plaza about a time when parents signed letters barring their daughters from seeking care at the clinic.
“I was there on a Saturday morning when a lady came in on her 18th birthday who had not been allowed to go to Planned Parenthood because her parents had signed that letter. She was pregnant,” he said. She was able to receive the care she sought. “The good thing is that one day I was in an elevator at Mayo and this woman looked at me. She said, ‘Are you Andy Good?’ I said yeah. She said, ‘You made a huge difference in my life.’ That's what we're talking about.”
Latz described the Dobbs decision as the tip of the iceberg. There are other federally-protected rights that a concurring opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas pointed to as potential targets to “reconsider”: access to contraception, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage.
The future of abortion in Minnesota in a post-Roe world hinges on the November elections. If Republican majorities are elected in the Minnesota Senate and the House of Representatives, it’s likely the state legislature would pass greater abortion restrictions , but a Republican governor would be needed to sign this legislation into law.
Still, abortion is constitutionally protected in Minnesota by the 1995 state Supreme Court decision in Doe v. Gomez, making abortion something that couldn’t be banned outright by potential GOP legislation.
Even if the state re-elects DFL Gov. Tim Walz and keeps all current abortion protections in place, the state has numerous restrictions in place to delay access to abortion, including a waiting period and state-directed counseling.
Though abortion is protected here, it hasn’t made the people of Minnesota immune to the harsh reality of the stripping of a constitutional right of women. Latz remembered the marches on Washington she participated in.
“There was so much pride back then. I’m sure there were a million people at both of the marches, and you were in a sea of people. Everybody was united, and the strength of the women that were there was unbelievable,” she said. “Then when Roe v. Wade was made a right to all women in the United States, what a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment and coming from the dark ages to enlightenment.
“And now, it's just so overwhelmingly depressing that we are literally taking a step backwards, and women have no rights now.”