Last year, the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturned nearly 50 years of federal precedent allowing abortion access as a constitutional right. Overnight, Minnesota became a Midwestern safe haven to those seeking abortion care as trigger laws immediately went into effect in 2 out of our 4 neighboring states.
While Wisconsin and Iowa did not implement any of these laws themselves, the effects of the Court’s verdict were virtually identical. Wisconsin reverted back to an 1849 state law that banned all abortions except in cases where “the mother would die without the procedure” and in Iowa, Republican Governor Kim Reynolds rushed to mandate 24-hour waiting periods on abortion treatment before it was eventually struck down by a district judge.
As we all still grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesota abortion providers were faced with an influx of new patients and undefined legal definitions between borders. Patients were experiencing weeks-long wait times for care. Then, before anyone could catch a breath, the first stories of people dying or nearly dying from their non-terminated pregnancies began to surface.
Amanda Jean Stevenson, sociologist and trained researcher, estimates there’s been a 21% increase in pregnancy-related mortality post-Dobbs. Her research note also underlines that the impact would be even worse for non-Hispanic Black people, with a 33% rise in deaths.
In Jewish tradition, the yahrtzeit marks the anniversary date of a person’s death — a time to mourn, to remember, and to honor our loved ones, typically our immediate relatives. The yahrzeit of Roe expands on this custom to include all those impacted by the reversal, upholding abortion rights as an American issue of life, freedom and dignity.
“We extend [this tradition] to the widest circle, to those who we do not know,” Kohenet Keshira haLev Fife remarked as part of a yahrzeit candle ceremony held last Friday by the National Council of Jewish Women.
More than 200 people came together to say the Mourner’s Kaddish and transform their grief into communal action. Before reciting the prayer, Rabbi Hara Person of the Central Conference of American Rabbis grounded the space by commenting, “Kaddish reminds us not to get too lost in our mourning. It pulls us back to hope, a tempered hope but still hope, [providing] the strength to keep fighting and keep insisting [for] a better and more peaceful world.”
A year later, the goal is not to go back to Roe – on the contrary, part of marking this anniversary requires acknowledgment that Roe was never enough. In partnership with fellow members of the UnRestrict Minnesota coalition and advocates nationwide, we dream of a world where everyone has greater access to reproductive healthcare – including abortion access and full bodily autonomy.
If you’d like to take action with us, we invite you to turn the memories of Roe into a revolution by joining the UnRestrict MN coalition at https://unrestrictmn.org/supp