Nearly 200 people gathered in the courtyard of St. Odilia Catholic Church in Shoreview on May 25 to discuss what could happen if Roe v. Wade was canceled and how to continue helping the women and children of Minnesota.
Roe v. Wade — the U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the United States nearly 50 years ago — could now be overturned by the court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. As a draft court opinion disclosed on May 2 indicates, the narrow majority of the court’s conservative justices could produce the most important ruling in the abortion debate in decades. If overturned, the ruling could rewrite how pro-abortion and pro-life campaigns work in Minnesota and across the country, pro-life and pro-choice advocates say.
The Respect Life Ministry at St. Odilia Church invited Teresa Collett, a law professor at St. Thomas University who served under Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis on the Pontifical Council for the Family, and Angela Franey, who leads Abria Pregnancy Resources, to shed light on this topic.
Collett, who is also an elected member of the American Law Institute and has testified before congressional committees, said the overturning of Roe v. Wade would not lead to a national abortion ban.
“It is simply untrue that if Roe v. Wade and (related Supreme Court decision) Planned Parenthood v. Casey are overturned, then suddenly we will have a uniform law across the United States that prohibits abortion,” said Collett said.
Instead, the leaked draft says the abortion decision will be placed in the hands of each state. Collett said this recognizes the founding principle of federalism, which grants authority over health care and morality to the state, not the federal government.
“(The draft) presents the argument, ‘give it back to the states and let each state decide,'” Collett said. “The simple fact is that the Founding Fathers left the most basic issues, things like physician-assisted suicide and abortion, to the states, because they believe the people of the states should control the decision on this issue.”
The potential undoing of Roe v. Wade depends on the composition of the current court, she said.
“If one of these (Conservative) justices dies, we won’t have a majority,” Collett said. All five justices on Alito’s draft opinion must be alive for the ruling to take effect, she explained, noting that Chief Justice Roberts has yet to issue the final ruling.
Considering Judge Clarence Thomas was hospitalized for health reasons in March this year as other judges seek shelter from protesters outside their homes, Collett said the outcome was anything but decided. If one of the five justices were to die, resulting in a nomination from President Joe Biden, a pro-choice Democrat, the court would become a liberal majority and likely uphold Roe v. Wade as is.
Collett cited data from the Center for Reproductive Rights, an abortion advocacy organization in New York, which indicates that 26 states would likely ban abortion if Roe v. Wade was canceled.
Access to abortion in Minnesota is unlikely to be restricted regardless of the Supreme Court‘s decision, Collett said. Given current state law and legislature, Collett said Minnesota would likely become a “destination state” for abortions in a post-Roe world.
Abortion is highly protected in Minnesota, and efforts are underway to make the procedure even more widely available in the state, she said.
Under the Minnesota Constitution, there is a right – independent of Roe v. Wade – for a woman to have an abortion which is equal to the right to carry her pregnancy to term. Employing the equal protection clause, the state established that if the state funds prenatal care, it must also fund abortions.
“In other words, the right to help pregnant women is hostage to the right to support women who terminate their pregnancies,” Collett said. A reversal of Roe v. Wade wouldn’t touch those policies.
Additionally, in a legal battle currently underway in Ramsey County, abortion advocates are pushing for abortion rights to encompass the right not to obtain parental consent, not to report adverse effects of abortion, not to report demographic data and not to provide women with consent to disclosure information.
If this law passes, Minnesota “will become the most radical state in the union,” Collett said.
Franey, whose work as director of Abria Pregnancy Resources helped 1,675 women in the St. Paul and Minneapolis sites in 2020 alone, offered information on how to support pregnant women and their babies at this crucial time.
Abria is one of 86 Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRCs) in the state, including 30 in the metro area. They operate independently, with most relying solely on private donations, to provide women with the support and resources they need to choose to have their baby born.
“PRCs are about caring for the mother and the baby,” Franey said, emphasizing “and.” “It’s a helping hand, not a handout.”
However, Franey said, changes in the way women seek and obtain abortions present challenges for Abria’s work, which are likely to be accentuated if Roe v. Wade is canceled.
Current Minnesota statistics reveal that more than half of abortions in the state are now performed via mifepristone or RU-486, also known as the “abortion pill.” However, the pill is only effective as an abortifacient in early pregnancy, so the window of time to reach women before they take the pill is getting narrower.
Additionally, the pill is now available by mail order in any state, meaning a woman never has to see a provider to get an abortion. This considerably reduces the possibilities for the CRPs to intervene and inform a woman of her choices.
Ultrasound is an essential tool in the work of CRPs. Eight out of 10 women who see their babies on ultrasound choose life, according to Franey. However, as women come to the resource center at an early stage of pregnancy, this tool becomes less effective, she said.
With women accessing abortions through Google searches, the need for effective digital marketing of Abria’s services becomes increasingly vital, she said. However, if abortion-conscious women travel to Minnesota for an abortion in a post-Roe world, they will likely be even harder to reach.
Along with increased marketing, more advanced ultrasound technology and funding to continue their work, Franey said Abria and other CRPs need prayers.
“God knows what we need,” she said.
Pat Benham, director of Respect Life Ministry in St. Odilia, said parishioners have been very appreciative of the group’s efforts to educate about abortion, adoption, surrogacy and physician-assisted suicide.
“We are trying to bring in speakers who will talk about these issues in a way that clarifies the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of life, and then always advocating what we can do with that information,” said Benham, who leads about 30 members of the group in their apostolate.
One of the group’s initiatives involves a nativity scene at the back of the church, which is placed under a custom stained glass window that says “choose life”.
Benham said the nursery is filled weekly by parishioners with donations for CRPs, such as bottles, baby clothes, formula and other necessities.
Diane Matko, who actively volunteers at Birthright in St. Paul, said the event gave her overall hope for the country, but she was saddened by Minnesota’s pro-abortion policies.
“It’s really sad that we live in Minnesota, which could become a destination state for this,” Matko said. “It’s disgusting.”
Janet McCoy, who has volunteered at pregnancy centers since 1996 and spent 10 years as a sidewalk counselor, echoed Matko’s sentiments. She said the biggest need for the pro-life movement going forward is the involvement of young adults.
“We need a younger face for the pro-life movement,” McCoy said. Retirees often have time to volunteer at pregnancy resource centers. But with more funding, these centers could hire more full-time staff who can more easily relate to their clientele.
McCoy said the event “makes me hopeful that we’ll have more conversations about this (and) people who are on the fence will take a closer look at it.”
Father Erich Rutten, parish priest of St. Odilia, said he was deeply touched that his parish is hosting the event.
“If we can host something that gives good insight and helps guide us through these times, I’m honored,” he said.
Category: Local News