Minnesota abortion funds prepare for influx of abortion seekers

People stand outside during a large protest
Abortion-rights activist react after the announcement to the Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images

Abortion rights supporters are preparing for a larger influx of women from other states seeking safe, legal abortions in Minnesota.

Host Cathy Wurzer spoke with Shayla Walker from Our Justice, which connects women from around the country with safe legal abortions in Minnesota.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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Audio transcript

INTERVIEWER: The Supreme Court handed down an expected ruling that erases constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years. There is a large crowd gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court building in Washington right now-- joyous individuals who say they've prayed for years for this ruling, while others are distraught and angry. The ruling comes more than a month after the leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, which telegraphed that the court was prepared to take this action.

Because of the ruling, it's now up to individual states to decide if abortion is legal within their boundaries. Now, a reminder that in Minnesota, abortion is legal with some exceptions. We have a lot of reaction to this decision. Shayla Walker is with us right now. Shayla is with a group called Our Justice that connects women to safe abortions in Minnesota. Shayla, welcome to Minnesota Now.

SHAYLA WALKER: Hi, thank you for having me.

INTERVIEWER: Where were you when you heard the news?

SHAYLA WALKER: At work. I was at home in St. Paul doing work. So yeah, that's where I was. We were preparing for this.

We've been preparing for this, not just from the leak, but even before the leak. Back in 2013 when HB2 came down and impacted Texans, we knew that trap laws across the nation were going to make it nearly impossible for people to access care. And so this is not surprising.

Even the leak wasn't surprising to us, the people who have been working in repro for a long time. We know that this was coming down sooner or later.

INTERVIEWER: You say you've been preparing. How have you been preparing?

SHAYLA WALKER: Yeah. So Our Justice, we're an abortion fund. We serve people who come to Minnesota and Minnesotans who have to travel outside of Minnesota to access their abortion care. We prepared by making sure all of our base knew, letting our donors know what was up with the courts.

We'd be preparing by starting a litigation back in 2019 to remove all the barriers that we have in Minnesota. So even though the state constitution protects abortion in Minnesota, there are 14 laws that make it hard to access. So one of them is a 24-hour waiting period law. Another one is judicial bypass where minors have to go and meet up with a judge who will tell them whether or not they are smart enough or wise enough to make a decision about their bodies. And so, yeah, we've been preparing by suing the state of Minnesota, by getting our volunteers in gear, by updating our technology that we have on the fund.

INTERVIEWER: You know, you've been with women personally who are going through the procedure. And I know that there can be a lot of shame with it. How do you think this decision will affect those women and how they feel about getting the procedure?

SHAYLA WALKER: You know, I think people who want to get an abortion will get an abortion. You know, folks say, oh, this law is going to stop them. No. People are resilient.

There are a lot of ways to get abortions. I think the shame and stigma is something that is really trying to be pushed by this narrative. When we know that three-fourths of Americans support abortion access, we know that 77% of Minnesotans believe that people should have access to safe and accessible abortion care. And it's just not women, it's people across the gender spectrum-- non-binary people, trans people, people who are the most marginalized are going to be impacted the most by this.

So yeah, for some people, there's a lot of shame. But then for some people, there is a lot of pride and a lot of hope when it comes to getting abortion, because they know that they are in control of their bodies. They have bodily sovereignty. They can self-determine for themselves and not have the law or some other entity make those decisions on their behalf.

We just celebrated Juneteenth. Juneteenth is supposed to be about the celebration of Black bodies being sovereign. Five days later, we have the courts telling us that our bodies aren't sovereign. Nobody's body is sovereign-- that the court makes these decisions about our bodies. So it's not lost on me that these things happened so close to each other.

INTERVIEWER: I'm wondering-- you mentioned you've got donors. Do you think that your donation base will increase in order to help women in others who are seeking abortions?

SHAYLA WALKER: Yeah. Again, we serve all people, not just women.

INTERVIEWER: Yes.

SHAYLA WALKER: Regardless of your gender, if you have a womb, if you are pregnant, you can get an abortion. You don't have to be a woman. But yes, I believe that people will continue to donate.

What really carried us over the pandemic is our individual donors. Yeah, we have some large donors here and there, yes, we have a little bit of foundation money here and there. But the reason that we were able to stay afloat was because of our monthly donors who continue to give every month-- even if it was $10 a month or $50 a month, they were consistent.

I know I counted on them during the pandemic, and I know I'm going to be able to count on them going forward. If you would like to become a monthly donor to Our Justice, help folks access abortion care and hotels when they travel here, we invite you to do so.

INTERVIEWER: Shayla, we were talking to Planned Parenthood and they are expecting their services to increase-- the demand to increase from those who are seeking abortions from other states. Do you think that abortion services will expand in Minnesota because of that demand?

SHAYLA WALKER: I hope so. I hope that Planned Parenthood will scale up and make sure that they have enough staff in all of their locations so that people can access care. Right now, only one Planned Parenthood in Minnesota is offering surgical abortions-- no other ones, just one.

And the rest of the surgical abortions are being performed by independent abortion providers. Robbinsdale Clinic is offering surgical abortion. Whole Woman's Health is offering surgical abortion. WeHealth is offering surgical abortion. So we need Planned Parenthood to step up and to start hiring folks and staffing up their people in their uptown location, their Rochester location, their Brooklyn Park location, and start offering surgical abortions there as well.

INTERVIEWER: What do you expect may happen-- of course, it's hard to know what's going to happen during the election coming up here in the fall. But in the Minnesota legislature, you mentioned there are several laws on the books that are exceptions to the abortion law here in Minnesota that have restrictions on abortion. What do you expect, I guess, going into the next session next year?

SHAYLA WALKER: We have a reproductive justice caucus who's always been down for us, who've been working on our behalf. Unrestricted Minnesota, shout out to them-- they are a campaign and coalition to uplift the work that we're doing around our lawsuit. And from there, [INAUDIBLE] the Reproductive Justice Caucus.

So hopefully they'll be able to do something, if not pass the Pro Act, pass the Patient's Right to Know Act. Patient's Right to Know is the one that will repeal the 24-hour waiting period. So I hope they do all that they can do.

But while they're doing their thing, we're going to be doing our thing on the ground and making sure that people have access to care by paying for their procedures, by paying for their hotels, giving them referrals to abortion doulas, and aftercare kits, and transportation. We're going to be doing all those things.

INTERVIEWER: What will you be doing today and, really, in the near future here?

SHAYLA WALKER: We're going to be fundraising money. Because at the end of the day, people need money. They need money to pay for their hotels. They need money to pay for their transportation to and from their appointment. They need money to pay for their abortion care.

So what we do best is sound the alarm, raise money, and redistribute it. I would say that we are the OGs of mutual aid. Our Justice have been mutual aiding before Roe v Wade and, I've said it before, we'll be doing it after.

INTERVIEWER: All right. Shayla Walker, thank you for your time.

SHAYLA WALKER: Yeah. Thank you. I appreciate it.

INTERVIEWER: Shayla Walker is the executive director of Our Justice, an organization that provides money and other support to people seeking abortions in Minnesota.

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