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Planned Parenthood leader urges Minnesota hospitals to help offset demand for abortion

Minnesota is set to become an island in the region for abortion access and providers said that nonprofit clinics alone might not be able to handle all patients seeking services.

The Planned Parenthood health care clinic in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The Planned Parenthood health care clinic in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Jeremy Fugleberg / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — A top regional Planned Parenthood leader on Thursday, June 30, called on Minnesota hospital systems to start offering abortion services to meet demand as people across the region traveled to the state to terminate a pregnancy.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning the federal constitutional right to an abortion, Planned Parenthood North Central States President and CEO Sarah Stoesz said the organization expected to see a surge in people seeking abortions in Minnesota.

Around the region, states have outlawed medication abortion and abortion procedures, or are considering doing so following the court's ruling last week. Meanwhile, abortion remains protected under a 1995 Minnesota court case in and abortion providers said they planned to continue offering services to residents and those who travel to terminate a pregnancy.

"We are doing what we can to step up and to take care of our providers and all of our staff so that they don't burn out but it's a difficult situation," Stoesz said, citing staffing shortages across the health care industry.

"It should not be just on the backs of Planned Parenthood and the independent abortion clinics in Minnesota to take care of the influx of people that will be needing our care," she continued. "And I am hopeful that we will begin seeing other OB-GYN practices and health systems stepping into the breach."

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Condemnations warn of "an Orwellian dystopia" in health care, ask doctors to take a stand against state restrictions set in motion by the ruling.

The Minnesota Medical Association, along with other medical specialty groups in the state, wrote in opposition to the court's decision last week. And the organizations said they were "committed to ensuring access to safe, effective, and equitable healthcare, to upholding the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship, and to protecting physicians and other health care professionals from criminal penalties for the delivery of evidence-based health care services."

But no health care provider beyond the eight clinics that already offer abortion procedures in the state indicated publicly that they would open up abortion services in the days following the ruling.

Stoesz told reporters on Thursday that Planned Parenthood would challenge state laws that restricted access to abortion in the region and would continue to offer access to birth control, cancer screenings and other services in those states.

She, along with a handful of women who'd undergone abortions in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota prior to the ruling also noted the additional challenges that women could face in accessing abortion services under the new network of state restrictions.

3StateAbortionMAP
Becca Clemens / Forum Design Center

Caitlin Anderson, of South Dakota, said she sought an abortion after she had three children and felt that she and her husband couldn't physically, financially or emotionally handle having a fourth child. While the decision to terminate her pregnancy was difficult, she said the restrictions to access an abortion in South Dakota were more onerous at the time.

She had to wait 72 hours between her first appointment with a physician and a second appointment to obtain the medication that would induce an abortion. And she felt frustrated and disheartened when the provider read her information that was not medically accurate or that she already knew.

“It kind of felt like torture waiting those three days," she said. “It really just felt like you’re being punished for making a decision other people don’t like."

Proponents of the laws requiring the waiting period say it can help a woman to reflect on the best course for her pregnancy and consider whether an abortion is the right option.

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Abortion providers and some patients seeking an abortion, meanwhile, say it makes it more challenging for people to access the services.

Anderson said the waiting period posed a burden for her, but new South Dakota laws banning abortion procedures in the state could result in the death of pregnant patients, suicides, intimate partner violence and hardship for families.

South Dakota lawmakers are set to return this summer for a special session to weigh additional restrictions on abortion, including traveling to another state for an abortion, as well as to offer additional resources to women who experience unplanned pregnancies.

"Together, we will ensure that abortion is not only illegal in South Dakota — it is unthinkable," South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said in a news release last week.

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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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