This blog post was written by a Ginny, a volunteer on our Reproductive Rights Committee.
While reading about the history of the pro-choice movement in Minnesota, I came across the following quote:
From the late 1960s onwards, feminists around the country looked to Minnesota as a model of progress. We who attended national conferences seeking better ideas were surprised to hear our efforts – both legislative and countercultural – lauded as exemplary (1).
The efforts mentioned above refer to a broad agenda of social and political causes promoted by Minnesota feminists, including women’s right to abortion. As a baby-boomer and Minnesotan, I am proud of my state and of my generation. As a historian I am eager to understand how our story fits into the larger history of the Women’s Movement. But now as I think about the upcoming 45th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision, I can’t help but wonder about our future.
A lot has happened in the last 45 years. At the federal level, the Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, bans “federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or threat to a woman’s life” (2). This means that women depending on government programs like Medicaid are often unable to exercise their freedom of choice due to lack of funds. In 2007, the Supreme Court upheld legislation that criminalizes abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy. As recently as 2017 the United States House of Representatives passed a 20-week abortion ban, with the United States Senate proposing a similar ban just one week later (3). At this time these and other bills await possible action in this coming year. Meanwhile, many states have implemented their own 20-week bans as well as other state regulations making it harder for doctors and clinics to provide safe and legal abortions to women. Minnesota, although considered an “island of abortion rights in the Midwest” still faces yearly assaults in the House and Senate as some members continue their efforts to restrict abortion access (4). While Roe v Wade still stands, it is but a shadow of its former self.
If you are reading this then you probably know the dangers facing women in the 21st century. Maybe you were in the streets defending women’s freedoms in the 1970s or maybe you are just beginning to speak out now. Chances are that you already know a lot about the 45 years of social and political pressures to reverse the Roe decision. The point here is that we must be proud of our past but also carry the fight into the future. We are fortunate to live in a state that still promotes a strong, pro-women agenda. That is no accident, as many women and men have organized, fought for and successfully protected these freedoms over the years. But we must remain ready, we must remain active, and we must remain angry about the fact that after 45 years we are still fighting for these same rights. Even in Minnesota, where we have a strong history of pro-choice support, we must not underestimate the struggle that is before us.