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Hundreds of abortion rights supporters rally at Minneapolis federal courthouse

"After we shed a few communal tears, we wiped them and we took a deep breath, and we got to work,” a women's health clinic employee told a crowd of hundreds who gathered outside the federal courthouse in downtown Minneapolis Friday evening. “Because we have to give the same care to the patients we saw yesterday and to the patients we saw today because we still need abortion care.”

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Sign seen at abortion rights protest Friday, June 24, outside the federal courthouse in downtown Minneapolis.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service
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MINNEAPOLIS — Whole Woman’s Health clinic manager Eliza O’Brien said she woke up with a funny feeling Friday morning, June 24.

Soon after arriving at work, she got the phone notification she and other clinic staff had dreaded all week: The U.S. Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade, ending nearly a half-century of federal protection for abortion rights. The former employee of the Red River Women’s Clinic, North Dakota’s only abortion provider, said she gathered with her colleagues in a back room at their Twin Cities metro area clinic to cry.

“But after we shed a few communal tears, we wiped them and we took a deep breath, and we got to work,” she told a crowd of hundreds who gathered outside the federal courthouse in downtown Minneapolis Friday evening. “Because we have to give the same care to the patients we saw yesterday and to the patients we saw today.”

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Bloomington, Minnesota, women's health clinic manager Eliza O'Brien speaks to a crowd of abortion rights supporters outside the Minneapolis federal courthouse Friday evening, June 24.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service

O’Brien said there were many reasons she was saddened by a major setback for abortion rights, but one was that the dedicated staff of the Fargo clinic she once worked at would be driven from the state they worked so hard to serve. Friday’s Supreme Court opinion has triggered a law in North Dakota which will ban all abortions in the state in 30 days, and the clinic plans to move across the state border to neighboring Moorhead, Minnesota.

O’Brien was one of many speakers who shared her story with activists, health care providers, spiritual leaders and elected officials who gathered for a rally described as a “vigil for reproductive freedom” by Minnesota abortion rights group UnRestrict Minnesota. Democratic-Farmer-Labor Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and Attorney General Keith Ellison, as well as leaders from various women’s health organizations across the state were in attendance.

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The core message from most of the speakers? Despite the Supreme Court dealing a major setback to abortion rights in the United States, abortion remains protected by the state constitution in Minnesota, and it will stay that way so long as supporters continue to vote and make their voices heard.

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Protesters gather in downtown Minneapolis following the Friday, June 24, U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, ending federal protection of legal abortion.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service

Minnesota is expected to become an island for legal abortion among states in the Upper Midwest. A “trigger law” has already made abortion illegal in South Dakota, a Wisconsin abortion ban law predating 1973's Roe v. Wade could go into effect and Iowa’s supreme court last week overturned a previous decision upholding legal abortion in that state.

It’s a move women’s and reproductive health organizations say could send many people seeking to end pregnancies to Minnesota. O’Brien said she worries about what that could mean for her Bloomington clinic.

“I'm sad because so many people are losing access and we have a capacity at the clinic and we won't be able to help everyone,” she said, adding she also worries the end of Roe could further embolden abortion opponents. “I'm nervous about the protesters outside our clinic and what they're going to do to our patients or how they're going to affect our patients.”

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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