Duluth abortion clinic expects more out-of-state patients after Roe v. Wade decision

DULUTH — More patients are expected to travel to Duluth seeking an abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which federally protected access to abortions. Abortion remains legal in Minnesota .

The WE Health Clinic in downtown Duluth, the Northland’s only abortion clinic and one of only a handful in the state, is already seeing more demand, said Paulina Briggs, laboratory supervisor at the clinic.

“We’ve seen an increase of patients actually coming up from the cities because (Twin Cities abortion providers) are seeing an increase in patients coming in from out-of-state and then the patients that live in those areas are getting displaced … we’re seeing that spillover in our clinic,” Briggs said.

But the clinic expects more out-of-state patients too, especially from North Dakota and South Dakota, which have trigger laws outlawing abortion in the state when Roe v. Wade is overturned, and Wisconsin, which has a 173-year-old abortion ban on the books that became effective again after Friday's decision. Abortion remains legal in Iowa.

“People who have the means to travel will come to Minnesota, but we're also very saddened that people of color, people living in poverty, they are not going to have the same advantage to be able to travel to Minnesota because they just can't afford it,” Laurie Casey, executive director of the WE Health Clinic, told the News Tribune.


For Casey, Friday’s decision was not unexpected, but it was still a heavy day.

“It’s just a sad day for all of us,” Casey said. “Even though we knew this was coming, it’s still really hard when it actually happens.”

But for anti-abortion rights activists, the Supreme Court’s decision was cause to celebrate. Pro-Life Ministries of Duluth is planning a rally and celebration for 5 p.m. Friday at Duluth’s Civic Center.

Tom Schaer, the group’s director, said the Supreme Court’s decision had him feeling “hopeful.”

“We’re recognizing that this is one step in the right direction towards restoring legal protections for the pre-born as well as just the valuing, as a nation, for life of all people, including pre-born people,” Schaer said. “There is somewhat of a joy there.”

Schaer also recognizes Friday’s ruling will lead to more abortions in Duluth, but he hopes it will mobilize more local activists and “sidewalk counselors” — advocates who try to dissuade patients from walking into downtown Duluth’s Building for Women for an abortion.

“We recognize that for a season, abortions — the killing of children — will continue and probably increase somewhat in Minnesota,” Schaer said.

He’s not sure what the future of abortion will be in Minnesota. At least for now, Casey is confident it will continue to be legal in the state.


“As long as we have a pro-choice governor, I feel good about abortion access,” Casey said. “But that can be taken away at any time.”

This story was updated at 2:46 p.m. June 24 with quotes from Tom Schaer and Laurie Casey. It was originally posted at 2:20 p.m. June 24.

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