We take a bite out of reproductive health, rights, and justice with two stellar advocates from Gender Justice and UnRestrict MN. Erin Maye Quade and Abena Abraham share their firsthand experiences on how the landscape has shifted since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and what cumulative actions we can all take to embrace this new, post-Roe terrain.
- Facebook Gave Police Data to Prosecute a Nebraska Teenager
- Law Professor Interrupts senator Josh Hawley’s Transphobic Line of Questioning
Host: R.B. Brooks, they/them, director of programs for the Midwest Institute for Sexuality and Gender Diversity
Cover art: Adrienne McCormick
Creators & Guests
What is Take the Last Bite?
Take the Last Bite is a direct counter to the Midwest Nice mentality— highlighting advocacy & activism by queer/trans communities in the Midwest region. Each episode unearths the often disregarded and unacknowledged contributions of queer & trans folks to social change through interviews, casual conversations and reflections on Midwest queer time, space, and place.
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To support this podcast and the Institute, please visit sgdinstitute.org/giving
Host: R.B. Brooks, they/them, director of programs for the Midwest Institute for Sexuality & Gender Diversity
Cover Art: Adrienne McCormick
Heyhihello ya’ll, this is R.B., your resident Midwestologist, serving up another episode of Take the Last Bite, a show where we chop up Midwest Nice, mix it with jello and call it a salad.
Speaking of things that don’t make any sense and make ya a little queasy, on this episode I’ll be chatting with two incredible advocates in Minnesota about how the landscape of reproductive justice has shifted in the months since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade. Whether you saw it coming from miles away or were suddenly struck by the brute force of the decision– we are all called to some form of mapping and planning around what it means to exist in a Post-Roe Reality.
There’s plenty we still don’t know about what’s next as a result of this decision, but we can make an educated guess that red states are going to be a major battleground for the inevitable surge of state-based policy frenzy we’re already witnessing here in the Midwest.
For example, in early August, Kansas citizens cast their votes in record-breaking numbers affirming the state’s constitutional protection against government regulations on abortion access.
Missouri’s least favourite supervillain…I mean, senator, Josh Hawley, had his bigoted beliefs challenged on-air this summer during a judicial committee hearing when law professor Khiara Bridges interrupted his transphobic line of questioning by telling him his erasure of trans people among those who can get pregnant leads to violence. And former Missouri politician Claire McCaskill shared with MSNBC days after the SCOTUS decision that prosecutors were already combing through the Missouri law to find all the ways someone who can become pregnant could be criminally charged for doing anything that could prevent the survival of a fetus and that it would only be a matter of time before people were prosecuted for using birth control, the morning after pill, etc.
And unfortunately that’s already happening in our region. A Nebraska teenager and their mother are facing felony charges for allegedly ending a pregnancy and not reporting it. In fact, Facebook provided law enforcement with transcripts of the teenager’s messages where they supposedly talked about the abortion, which are being used as evidence against the teenager. I chat a bit more about this situation on our newly launched TikTok so pop over there and follow us to learn more about all things Midwest and Queer and let me know what you think.
The moral of the story is that the next leg of this battle of bodily autonomy will largely play out on a localized level– state by state, city by city because one of the keystones of Roe V. Wade was that it was unconstitutional for states to ban abortion. So without the federal protection, state politicians have been given substantial room to enact restrictive regulations on abortion access.
Fortunately for all of us, there are some stellar folks who’ve been deeply engaged in reproductive health, rights and justice coalition work for some time now who have resources, guidance and words of affirmation to lead us into this new, post-Roe terrain.
I get on the mic with Erin Maye Quade and Abena Abraham from Gender Justice and UnRestrict MN to talk about how reproductive freedom efforts have been impacted by the SCOTUS decision and what cumulative actions we can take to make a difference in this messy moment.
Find a pen and paper and prepare to take some notes during this episode… of Take the Last Bite.
[INTRO MUSIC PLAYING]
Why can't we be in space with hundreds of other queer and trans folks and having these necessary conversations?
When it comes to dynamics around privilege and oppression, and around identity. Well intentioned isn’t actually good enough.
How far is too far to drive for a drag show? I don’t know, we’re in Duluth right now, I would straight up go to Nebraska, probably,
If you are not vibing, or something’s not right, or also like there’s an irreparable rupture, you have absolutely every right to walk away.
Definitely going to talk about Midwest Nice and if that's as real as it wants to think it is.
Midwest nice is white aggression. That's what it is.
All right, so I am super jazzed about this conversation. Kind of wish we didn't have to have this conversation in aftermath of national nonsense, but here we are. Super stoked to be chatting with you all. Specifically, I like to start off our show with having guests introduce who they are while also answering and sharing a bit about what is your relationship to the Midwest.
Thanks for having us on. My name is Abena. I am the UnRestrict campaign director. I'm excited to be here today to talk about this exciting topic. I use she/her pronouns and my relationship to the Midwest is this is where I'm from. This is home. I've tried to leave and always find my way back. So I've come to terms about Minnesota's home, despite the weather. I love it here, everybody.
I'm Erin Maye Quaid. I used she/her pronouns. You can call me Erin. I'm really excited for this conversation as well, and I'm really appreciative of you creating a space for us to have it. I'm born and raised Minnesotan. I've lived here my whole life. And my mom is also from Minnesota. My dad came to Minnesota for college, so we're a pretty Minnesota family with accents and leaving the last bite and everything.
Yes, Minnesota, commiserating over this weather, which is really cold today. I don't know what it's like where y’all are, but it is a chilly 40 something degrees in Duluth today.
Yeah, there's like technically a wind chill that they can factor and say it's not as cold here in the Metro, but it's crisp.
I'm not ready. So we are gathered here today to chat about what I feel like everybody and their hamster is chatting about, but we're going to take it to some levels of depth and contextualize it from y’all two as folks who are deeply engaged in reproductive justice work. And I want to start with just even talking about that phrase reproductive justice and get some insight from you all about what are we even talking about when we're talking about reproductive justice?
Yeah. So reproductive justice is a political and organizing framework that was created by Black women and femmes in the conference in Chicago. They had attended an international conference, actually, in Cairo, and had talked about the individual right to plan your family. And so when they came together, they were talking about how reproductive justice is about more than just the right to abortion. Right. And so it analyzes the conditions that are created that allow you to have children, not have children, raise children you choose to have in safe and sustainable communities and have gender freedom and bodily autonomy and what are the supports that are needed in order to do those things and to make those decisions. And so it splices together reproductive justice. Splices together the words reproductive rights and social justice. But I think it has become a little bit buzzwordy. There's been a little bit of concept creep.
We talk sometimes about economic justice versus economic quality. And reproductive justice actually is like a very specific movement that was created in a framework that was created by Black women and femmes and continues to be led by Black women and femmes and indigenous people. Reproductive justice is something that people of color, indigenous people, trans and LGB people have been doing for a lot longer than the term has been around and the movement has been around. But it does give an analysis and a framework to that kind of work.
That's really helpful. And I don't think I knew personally all of that history. And it doesn't surprise me that this, like most things, is like a secret in plain sight that shouldn't be a hidden history, right? That like most things, intersectionality, other justice terms and movement work is crafted, curated, and founded by Black women, women of color, queer folks. What a surprise.
If I can just jump in and add one thing. And I think, in this moment, there's just a little bit of confusion that folks oftentimes think that the reproductive justice movement was created in response to the reproductive rights movement. And that is a huge misconception. Like this was a space that was created to make sure that everyone else that was left out could find a place to organize and a place that they could see themselves and where intersectionality was the core and the center. Like there is an importance for reproductive rights movement in the reproductive justice movement to be happening together and working alongside each other, but they're not like in reaction to each other. And so I think that's just important to clarify.
Where did some of that confusion come from?
Well, the reproductive rights movement has been pretty white and the reproductive justice movement has been inclusive, and as Erin mentioned, was started by Black women and femmes. And so I think in this day and age where everybody wants to operate from a place that we have all people within our orgs or we include BIPOC people, I think because of that there's confusion on, well, is my org reproductive justice, is my org reproductive rights. And so I think because of that distinction of this was started by folks of color. Like people that are operating under the antiracist framework sometimes get caught up in the verbiage and can't have that distinction.
Yeah, oftentimes I'll talk about the reproductive health rights and justice movements because those are all three are really important, right? Our respective health, reproductive rights, and our respective justice. And so they do exist alongside and touch all of those areas. The ability to have bodily autonomy is big and it touches a lot of parts of our lives and so it does require a lot of ongoing simultaneous movements to achieve that.
So then UnRestrict Minnesota would be a reproductive justice organization, right? Is that because that's the inherent framework that you all are operating from?
We are a reproductive rights, health and justice coalition that operates with a reproductive justice framework. As we are not an exclusively Black woman led coalition or all of our members are not. So we say that we are a reproductive health, rights and justice coalition and campaign that uses the reproductive justice framework.
So in that coalition work and in the work of UnRestrict Minnesota, how is the nature of that work look in comparison to maybe a more red state? Right. Like we're in Minnesota, we know there's a perception that it's inherently more progressive, but there are still some common pillars of cringe and ick that is just ubiquitous across these United States. So what has been the nature of UnRestrict’s tenure of work maybe compared to other states?
Yeah, so under strict Minnesota was created three and a half years ago to do a few different things. One was to support litigation against the state of Minnesota to remove a bunch of abortion restrictions from law. You're right. There was this perception that everything was fine in Minnesota. Other states might be passing abortion bans, but everything is fine here. And we had a whole host of laws that were barriers for people accessing abortion care.
And so UnRestrict's mission is to protect, expand and destigmatize access to abortion care and all reproductive health care in the state of Minnesota. And we do that through public education, litigation, and legislation. And so when we started three and a half years ago with the understanding that Roe v. Wade was going to be overturned and that this issue was going to be decided state by state. And in 1995, the Minnesota Supreme Court established that Minnesotans have the right to access abortion care and decide to access abortion care without the government interfering. And despite that decision, there had been a lot of laws put in place that did interfere with those decisions.
And so litigation was filed in 2019 and that's when our coalition and campaign started as well. And so we have the opportunity here in Minnesota to be proactive and not reactive and to utilize the Minnesota Constitution that already had established some pretty significant rights to roll back some of the harms that had been put into place in the early two thousands and that kind of stuff. So unlike other states who are maybe doing defensive work or protective work, we were doing proactive work. And that was really a really important thing to be happening in the last three and a half years as we get to this moment. We're in a post-Roe America.
So let's talk about the key moment you just mentioned. Right. So it seems from what you said that this overturning of Roe v. Wade that officially took place the end of June of this year was not seemingly probably a surprise to folks real deep in the reproductive health and or rights and or justice facets of work. With that in mind, what shifts or changes maybe have happened post the official turning over and SCOTUS decision versus after. What has been the energy?
I think about, and maybe this isn't a comparison, but I'm curious if there is one, especially since we're in Minnesota, I think about the summer of 2020 in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder, how organizations doing either anti racism work or jail bond work, right. Got a lot of attention in ways that were unprecedented to the point where some of them were like, wow, we've gotten loads of donations in a very short span of time. What does that mean for our infrastructure? We could never fathom, just like kind of the energy and the rallying around groups and agencies that are doing this type of work.
That's one example, I think, of just like, how have folks been activated in different ways between the day before and the day after.
Just speaking from the side of donations and support. We've expanded our list and expanded our supporters, both like people wanting to volunteer and people donating significantly at both UnRestrict Minnesota and Gender Justice. We had a rally where folks well, let me step back. We had a vigil the day of the decision, and there was not a lot of organizing done beforehand to get people to turn out. And we had an amazing turnout of people just wanting to be in community with each other and just like, process this moment. Then we had a rally a couple of weeks after the decision and had a huge turnout of people, like, being outraged and wanting to figure out what are the next steps.
In the same rate, I think just like on the side of now organizing around the election, I think people are a little comfortable here in Minnesota. I think that they look at what's happening in neighboring states and they're like, well, we just expanded access. There is the lawsuit that in the strict and partners put forth that was affirmed by the court. And so we're all good and all rosy, but the reality is we have Minnesota who are traveling to other states to access care because appointments are filling up.
And, we have a really important election before us right now. We need to make sure that we have a legislature that's pro abortion, pro reproductive freedom, so that we can get these restrictions off the books because it takes one Republican governor in office and the ability for them to nominate Supreme Court justices for our entire lawsuit to be unraveled and we're back in a place of having restrictions.
I think there's a lot of energy and excitement around organizing, but I think there's also still a need to educate people, especially around the election, and what it means in this moment to have had this exciting lawsuit and then still having work to be done. We know that we got to continue to expand access. We have to make sure that we have an Attorney General that's going to make sure that people are not going to be prosecuted for coming here to access care. And we also know that we need to activate our BIPOC communities because should there be restrictions, we know that those communities will suffer the most.
And so we're both excited about the energy, but also wanting people to be laser focused on, we're not done. It's not over until it's over, and we still got work to do. We're appreciative and grateful for all the support that's been coming through, but also just wanted to make sure that the people that are new and weren't expecting this moment to happen also know that just because a few weeks after Roe was struck down, we had an amazing victory here. There's still more to do.
Yeah, I want to add some historical context, too, because the analogy that you used about George Floyd's murder, there were obviously organizations in the state of Minnesota and in Minneapolis that worked to combat police violence and to shine a light on it. And I think the big difference, I think about, like, the Rodney King beating that happened in the 90s, that was kind of one of the first ones that was filmed. But as organizations across the country kind of sprung up to address that issue, like, you didn't know where and you didn't know when and you didn't know who.
The Reproductive rights, health and justice movement 100% knew when and where and who, like, we had on our calendars, like, June 24. Like, that's the day that they're going to overturn Roe v. Wade. We spent months, like, creating Facebook ads and things to go out on digital just to hit go for that moment.
The antiabortion movement has been saying for decades that we are going to overturn Roe v. Wade. We're going to overturn Roe v. Wade. And part of the reason that they stole the Supreme Court to seat Gorsuch and the reason they shoved Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court was to overturn Roe v. Wade.
So we were more than ready. And I think when it changed, there's two, there's two times when it changed. The first is that when SB 8 in Texas, which banned abortion after six weeks, which is about two weeks after people possibly might know that they're pregnant, the Supreme Court allowed that to go into effect. And so that was actually the moment where abortion in every state was, like, the federal right to abortion was gone with them allowing that to go into effect. And so that actually was like, oh, they're going to definitely overturn Roe v. Wade.
But the thing that we were thinking between September 1, 2021, when SB 8 in Texas went into effect, in November 2021, when the oral arguments were, is that we thought that they were going to find a way to gut Roe v. Wade without saying it's overturned. We thought they were going to be coy and cute about it. We didn't actually think that they would come outright and say it because we knew that there would be such outrage.
And then we heard the oral arguments and listening to the judges or the justices asked the questions, we came out of that going, oh no, they're definitely going to overturn it and they're not going to be coy. And so this has just been that Austin Power scene where it's like that steam roller coming at him, but he's like a mile away and he's like, no, stop. It was like that, saw it forever, that it was going to happen.
And so it was really surprising to a lot of people. And that's just like some of my best friends who talk to me every single day but just don't do this work. We keep saying that they're not going to really do it, are they? Like, no, they definitely are. And they were surprised, right? And so we were prepared for this moment and Abena mentioned that litigation in Minnesota that removed the abortion restrictions from law just a week after, that took three and a half years of forward thinking, knowing we've come to this moment knowing that Minnesota was going to play a really important role in a post Roe America.
And for us, it was just like, all systems go, the thing has happened. The thing that we've been preparing for for the last few decades, for a lot of movements and organizations has happened. And so now we flip to how do we get people the services that they need? How do they need to go and how do we get them there? What do doctors need to know and what do lawyers need to tell them and what do femmes need to do? So it's been really intense, but it didn't come out of nowhere for those of us in the movement, like, we knew this was going to happen. And have been preparing.
Seems like there's really no win in that positionality, right? To either be someone who's anticipated and been aware because you're immersed in the work, this particular work, or then alternatively, to be someone who's some shade of politically unaware or politically uninformed, either by choice or just by nature of access or availability of that information, to be maybe like completely struck by surprise. And now it's opening kind of this additional frenzy of consideration of like, well, what's next? All of it seems, it's all on the table, really is kind of what it feels like based on what you said of this very direct tactic of like, we're not going to gut it, we're not going to be like coy and under the radar about it, we're just going to take it. Right? So now they've shown a certain hand that means everything is fair game and that sucks.
Yeah, well, let's not forget to the opinion leaked before it actually happened.
When we read that, we were like, okay, so they're definitely gonna do this. But I also think part of the reason that people have such a visceral reaction to this. I remind people about this all the time, is because some people feel like their feelings about it are disproportionate to the harm. They feel like, why am I having such an intense reaction to this? And it is the first time in this iteration of the country's founding that the Supreme Court has taken a right away. It literally has never happened before. And so that is a big, big moment. And people with uteruses are relegated to second class citizens. And it feels that way.
And so I think even for people who are up in politics and might have a political podcast or watch the news every night or anything like that, it really is like it seems so inconceivable that the Supreme Court would actually take this step. Unless you have been working in this movement and seeing how far the antiabortion movement will go to assert power and control over people in this country. It is shocking. It is a shocking level of inhumanity. I get it. I get why people were surprised and shocked no matter where they sit on the informed-uninformed. It's really shocking.
I think too. And this seems to be the case in most movement work. Is that white women. White cis women. White cishet women. Let me be as precise as possible. At least from what I've seen. Especially on social media. We're so very shocked and I'm assuming and can track historical patterns to realize that the shock comes from not having experienced maybe as direct or as blatant of an attack or a restriction on their own bodily autonomy. I think even prior to this moment where there's not federally recognized protections for abortion access, like, white women were pretty unscathed, and that was not the case for all folks who can become pregnant right. Access to any kind of health. Right. And on social media, I feel like I've very specifically seen that crowd be so surprised in ways that it's like, where were you during this instance, in this instance, and this instance, like, folks taking down their American flags as though that's some big, like, got you moment. And I'm like, well, what about summer of 2020 or fall of 2016 or fall of just, like, all of these big nationally recognized moments, prior to this moment, in which you were not activated, in which you were not upset with your country. I could go on a whole different tangent about that, so I won't.
But I feel like this level of surprise feels like it lives in two, not to be binary about it, but like, two places. One, where you were blissfully unaware because you were protected up until this moment, while others were not as protected or what you shared, right? I don't think there's a question in there. I just like to go on tangents.
Well, I think one other thing too, that certainly has happened is abortion care is part of pregnancy care. Every person who is pregnant who doesn't have access to the full spectrum of pregnancy care is in danger. Right? And so I think one thing that certainly has happened since the decision is the very knowable but maybe not understood consequences of Roe v. Wade being overturned. People suffering through miscarriages that could be ended and have miscarriage management in hospitals, people not having access to PTSD, cancer, or arthritis treatment because those pills can also be used as medication abortion. Right?
You can't neatly contain discrimination and relegate people to second class citizenry neatly. It actually doesn't work like that. And so I think there are people who are surprised, like how far it reaches. I'm not a person who would have an unintended pregnancy and therefore I wouldn't need an abortion. As if that's the only reason people have abortions or the only place that this touches. And I think that's certainly something, again, was knowable. But, that is I think certainly some of the surprise I've seen as well is that, you mean it's not just the person who had an unintended pregnancy and went to go get an abortion, it affects other people? I think that's really been where some of the surprises too.
Kind of like what is your personal philosophy or kind of your personal morals and how does that differ from what the legislation actually covers or does not cover?
Right? I mean, I think the anti abortion movement has spent a lot of time painting people who have abortions as, quote, unquote, like those kinds of people, right, people. People who are irresponsible and have unprotected sex and they use abortion as birth control, which that's a whole other topic, but it's very like negative denigrating othering way that we talk about people who have abortions. And some people do have unintended pregnancies and some people don't use protection. Some people do have abortions for those reasons and some people have abortions for other reasons. Right. There's myriad reasons why people have abortions. It's as complicated as humans are.
And so I think that that's one of the ways that the antiabortion movement has been successful is to tell a whole host of people like don't worry, this won't affect you. It's just about those people. This isn't really about you, it's about those people and you're not those people. And come to find out they are those people. Because it's about power and control and creating a dominance over an entire populace of people regardless of your proximity to privilege or how much of it you have. Like you are those people. That's the point. And later, this is the first step in making other kinds of people and it's just kind of chipping away at our humanity.
Yeah, the messaging is unfortunately very successful. I exist in a campus space and there's definitely been a surge across the country at college campuses with student organizations and it's like, what? Also it's primarily like cis white men and I'm like, what are you doing? But then to your point, right, the messaging is so compelling because it's kind of characterizing a particularly type of person who is easy to degrade or think unhighly of. And so then you easily recruit these college students to be part of something that they believe to be very noble and very kind and compassionate. It's like, actually, you're impeding a lot, a lot of people's existence and you don't even know it. I mean, maybe you do know and you just don't care. I don't really know which one's happening. Which I feel like segues into definitely what has been complex, complicated, messy, especially in the last three months as far as how folks are talking about in the aftermath of the official striking down of Roe v. Wade is technically language. But what is behind the language of how specific all of this has seemed to center around, like, cis women and a cis white women experience, which is not new, but has very much amped up in the last few months since the SCOTUS decision. And I think it creates some complexity around how do queer and trans people, especially like AFAB, trans and nonbinary people, engage with something that is so pressing and has so many implications for other types of health and wellness issues when we have to shove our way into the conversation? In most cases.
Yeah. I mean. I think this is one of the really important parts about having done this work before we got to this inflection point. Is we use gender inclusive language because otherwise we're being exclusive and we're not talking about everybody who has abortions and we're making sure that people are really represented and how we talk about this issue when we talk about this issue. Where we talk about this issue. And one thing we found, the research has found, is that young people actually really get it. Young people understand who this harms most and they understand who should be at the center of the conversation.
I just sat in on a briefing yesterday, actually. That was just some polling about this. I think you said the audience of this podcast is like predominantly young people, possibly. And so, they get it. And I think people are also starting to get it. Changing people's language and changing the place people go to. Like, the first thing they think about. This happens a lot of times when male politicians will be like, well, I have a daughter and I have a wife. And I'm like, that's amazing for you. But the reason why this is important is not because you know women. It's because this is a right that everybody should have. But that's okay. That's where they're starting out. And so I think that's what we're seeing a lot of right now is that as a lot of people get activated, it brings up old messaging and it brings up, like, the last time they engaged with this. My body, my choice, right? Is like a really old refrain and it's an old message and it's an old narrative that was used and also like, resurged during COVID and vaccines, too.
I think that is how these conversations can be really difficult for trans nonbinary genderconforming people to enter into is because we're still frantically trying to get people up to speed and just re engaged. And we found that people are very receptive and understanding. It just takes time for language to permeate and to be reflected in our movements, which is not fun at all. That's why we start, when we created UnRestrict Minnesota with a reproductive justice framework. We've always been there, and that's what our messaging and all of our work has been geared towards, is to be trans inclusive and to center those most harm and impact and to center the experiences of people of color and people with low incomes, because those are the people who are harmed the most by these laws. And people who traditionally haven't been able to access abortion care even when it has been, quote, unquote, legal. Right. So that's the power of our work and the important part of our work, too.
Yeah, it creates a restlessness in me because I feel like there's so many narrative overlaps between all of these kind of key components of the repro justice framework and the conversation that's happening right now about what to do in this aftermath, in this moment of shift and Trans Justice work. And for there to be kind of just like just the average person kind of discussing one without the other, it's like it seems so obvious. It seems so obvious, like queer and trans folks are already navigating, having to drive obscenely long distances to access affirming healthcare. And that is now a narrative that is extra, like, prominent in this moment where state by state access is different. And you may have to travel if you didn't already, or you're not allowed to travel because you're not allowed to cross state borders. That's a whole other piece of this too and was already an issue.
Thinking about how taking testosterone can impact organs. Not that I want anybody to take this idea if they're listening to it as a provocateur, but like, does that come next? Are they going to come after folks accessing testosterone because it allegedly could impact fertility? I'm going to speak that hopefully not to existence.
You're not speaking it into existence. It's already a thing. I think it's important for people to know Gender Justice, we do trans and LGB inclusion work and equity work. And for the last four years, we've been telling funders and philanthropy that this is where the anti abortion movement is going next, is attacking trans people in particular. And they're running the same playbook that they ran on abortion, on access to gender affirming care. Right. They've been harassing hospitals and doctors who provide gender affirming care and trying to push it out of mainstream health care. They've been trying to basically do conversion therapy through public schools by forcing, this is just happening in Virginia right now, the new guidance from the governor there would force them to, they can only use pronouns for students based on their sex assign at birth, which I want to always be snarky. I'm like, oh, can they not use we, us and I then?
Anyway, this is the plan, right? It's the same playbook. It's just 40 years later. And so because we're kind of at the beginning of this attack in this way, it's like this legislative, legal and messaging campaign against trans people. But we know who's running it and we know their playbook. We actually have the opportunity to not let it get where they got with abortion. And part of why we do all this work at Gender Justice is we understand gender to be all of these things and they are deeply intertwined. And it's the same opponent in these places too, right?
And their tactics, like we talked about, are just getting more blunt and jagged. So our response would ideally be just as bold. But like I said, it just creates this restlessness of like the constellation of all these things are in the same universe and folks are not. How do we refine that telescope? I love an extended metaphor. How do we refine folks' telescope to see all the stars in the sky at the same time versus kind of looking at some of the flashiest ones or noticing when one is a shooting star?
Yeah, I love that.
So you've kind of alluded to some of this as far as kind of what is happening, but what does the current moment inform for what needs to happen next? We kind of talked about a little bit, but what else is important in this moment for folks to be thinking about?
Yeah, there's a lot for what's next. So on the day of the Supreme Court striking down Roe, we put out our leadership agenda, which is a roadmap to what we need to happen here in Minnesota, post Roe to keep expanding access. And one of the key things in that leadership agenda is actually making sure that we remove all the restrictions off the book so that if another administration that's anti abortion comes into power, they can't just ram stuff through the courts and get rid of the restrictions. And so that abortion continues to be a protected right for all Minnesota. And so in order for us to do that, we know that we need to get folks activated and participating in this election. And so we launched UnRestrict Minnesota Action, which is a (c)(4) political arm of UnRestrict Minnesota, where we are engaging Minnesotans about this election, talking about the importance of participating and not sitting it out.
I know that things feel a little rough for everybody right now where they're like, you know what, we've been voting, we've been participating. It just seems like things continue to get worse. But we are not just asking people to vote. We're also asking them to join us and making sure that we hold the folks that are elected accountable once they are elected to getting things done. And we're also reminding folks that it's really important to not just look at the legislature alone, but to also look at the governor and lieutenant governor because the governor has the ability to appoint Supreme Court justices and he will have to do that in the next term. And so it's important that we don't have Supreme Court Justices that would totally take us back on the progress that we've made. And as I mentioned earlier, we need to make sure that we have an Attorney General that's not going to be prosecuting or working with other states to prosecute people that come here to access abortion care.
And I know that most people are like Secretary of State, what is that? That's just elections. But the Secretary of State's office also does a lot around businesses. And so you want to make sure that, should more abortion providers want to open clinics here in Minnesota, that they have the Secretary of State's office that's going to work with them to be able to open those clinics. Right now we have a limited amount of clinics and so people are not all getting access to care. And then with the lawsuit as well, we know that advanced practice clinicians can now perform abortion care as well. And so we're going to see that there's going to be more providers and therefore we hope that translates to more clinics. And so we want to have a Secretary of State's office that's willing to work with folks.
And then most importantly, after the election, we need to show up at the legislature. None of the things that I've just laid out would happen unless we are actually at the Capitol paying attention, using our voices. And so we will also be engaging people and taking them to the Capitol for lobby days, just sending out updates on what's happening. And so there's so much to do, so much more to do to continue to expand access for everybody.
Yeah. The only other thing that I would add to that too is that, for as sudden as it felt for Roe to be overturned and people want what is the thing we can do to suddenly make it go back or to suddenly fix it? It really isn't going to be that fast. And I want to just give historical context, right?
So Roe v. Wade was passed in 1973. The anti abortion movement was actually started not in response to that, but actually as a Republican, the Republican Party was looking for a way to coalesce white Southern voters who oppose the integration of public schools around an issue because they thought that opposing integration was actually too racist. And so they were like, we got to find something else and they found abortion, right? I know, they found abortion.
It's been like a concerted effort that has cost hundreds of millions of dollars, right? The creation of the Federalist Society, state legislative races, governor's races, Congress, Senate, presidential races to get to this point. And in fact, there were a number of United States Supreme Court decisions that affirmed or upheld or did not overturn Roe v. Wade that have happened since then. So you have Planned Parenthood v. Casey in the 90s, you have Whole Women's Health v. Hellersted in 2016, and then June v. Russo, which actually just came out like a year 2019, two years ago, three years ago. And so for every one of those Supreme Court decisions, right, the anti abortion movement was like, why? One of them came out during President Trump's term. Why did we even vote for you? Why did we vote for you? And you put Gorsuch on the Court and we still have this really horrible opinion.
I want people to understand that it really took the anti abortion movement a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of sustained engagement to get here. And so in order for us to have a future, to get to that future of reproductive justice where every person can decide to have children or not have children and raise children in safe and sustainable communities and have gender freedom and bodily autonomy, it's going to take sustained effort and engagement to do that. It's not going to happen next year. It's not going to happen with the passage of one bill. Maybe it could happen next year. I guess if we have a really good 2022 election cycle.
Yeah, really, let's do it. But the conditions that were created to get us here don't go away with one election. It will take sustained engagement to then create the future that we want. And so I want people to enter into this with a commitment to stay engaged at a level that feels sustainable and it's okay to like, shift up, shift down based on your capacity and everything, but to stay engaged in some way.
And at UnRestrict Minnesota, we try to help you do that, to be the place where you can be engaged at whatever level and whatever capacity you have, because this will take time and it will take our efforts, but we can do that. We can do hard things. I just don't want us to think that it is going to be like, tomorrow, we fix it. Sometimes I feel like I'm waiting for the adults to fix it. I'm like, someone’s going to fix this. Right? You can't just take away like a fundamental human right and get away with it, can you? But no, we're the adults. We have to fix it. So that's our job.
I really value kind of this model of laying out all these ways to kind of demystify the electoral politics structure in the state of Minnesota specifically for some of the stuff you talked about Abena, because we've had a few guests on the show before either talking about civic engagement, but in a really queer, radical way, right? But we had someone talking about a voter guide to kind of demystify and talk about, like, here's all these different positions. You may not have known what in the world this person's responsibility is, but let me kind of try to break it down for you so that you are not just avoiding the polls because you don't know who does what. We also had two folks who ran for municipal office.
And so within both of those conversations, you know, the sticking point really is like, the average citizen not really knowing how to engage or young folks just feeling so exasperated with the electoral politics process that you just don't. So I think kind of tools like kind of laying out, here's why this election is important. Here's what this person does for you, and connecting it to something that folks are very activated around right now in the aftermath of the striking down of Roe v. Wade feels so responsive, right? Like in the times where you have to be either reactive or responsive because that's what the mode other folks are in. If you're trying to kind of activate and they're looking for guidance and resources, even if your organization has been very proactive in all of this process, like also engaging folks where they're at if they're in a reactive place and kind of flailing, here's the roadmap, here's the guidance.
I think it's always interesting because you've always like, you have to vote. And I think people think to themselves, I do vote. But the reality is half of you don't because that's the truth in this country. And they count on us not voting. Like, they count on all of their folks showing up at every municipal, every city and county water conservation election. They count on those folks to pass these policies and these regulations. Like, the weirdest stuff that you wouldn't even think of, right? Like, yes, voting for president is very important, and yes, voting for every four years is important. But it's actually like, there's an election every single year. Every November, the first Tuesday in November, there is an election. Just show up your polling place every single November, whether it's your school board, your city council, your accounting commissioner, your state representative, your state senator, your member of Congress, your US Senator, your governor, your lieutenant governor, your state auditor, right?
Like, all of these things really do matter at every single level. And I think that is, like, every single one of them play a role in all of these things. So really committing, we have to show up in those numbers because we are an undeniable force of numbers. We just don't make ourselves an undeniable force at the ballot box always because it feels hard. But they count us out, and then we suffer.
Absolutely. And I just want to say to you, to folks listening, that we don't expect everybody to know everything when it comes to electoral things, because it's complex. And of course, as Erin just mentioned, it's intentional that we don't know everything. And so we at UnRestrict Minnesota Action, are really excited and open to helping people host little house parties in their communities to talk about this election, to help people map out how each of these offices is connected to is connected to the fight to continue to expand abortion access. And so if folks are interested, they can email us info@UnRestrictMinnesota.org. And we are more than happy to figure out how to pop up in a spot in your community and talk to folks and make sure that people have all the information to make informed decisions as they vote this year.
For us in Duluth, a big one is that the St. Louis County Sheriff's position is up for the first time in, like, I forget, is it 20 years? Same with the Douglas County, so our neighbors here, Superior, Wisconsin, is in Douglas County. Both those sheriff's positions in very giant counties have been up. And it was really interesting. There was a kind of like a panel with the candidates that were on the primary ballot and someone asked, because this panel was like shortly after June 24, maybe, in fact, like a day or two after, and someone asked and they're like, so what is enforcement going to look like? What might we expect? And none of them had a good answer. And that's a terrifying open question. And so, again, thinking about how folks connect all of this constellation, like looking at all the stars and sky at the same time, to continue kicking my metaphor, folks who are engaged in law enforcement accountability or abolition work, right? Like, it should be an easy answer, in my opinion, for someone who has such a high position in a law enforcement agency to be able to answer that question. But we just don't know a whole lot yet. So they don't know a lot yet, which means, I think, more room for mess. Right. We see that, what was the, Facebook handed over some Facebook Messenger messages from the Nebraska teenager who had been talking about an unreported, at home abortion. I don't know the details, so I may be mischaracterizing that. But you have law enforcement who are going after and using all these old school surveillance tactics of pulling Facebook messages to be able to enforce and it's like, is that codified? Are you just making this up as you go? Because that's dangerous and scary. I don't like that. I don't like not knowing.
This is the problem with when the antiabortion movement makes up laws that are not rooted in anything. It's really hard sometimes. So, for example, SB 8 in Texas, the way that they got around Roe at the time which was still in effect, was the State was not in charge of enforcing the ban. Private citizens were. And so when you sue the State to say, like, hey, this law is unconstitutional, you sue them because they're in charge of enforcing it. And so you want to sue them to stop them from enforcing that law. But when Texas passed their law, it wasn't the attorney general or the county attorneys or the city prosecutors or whoever who was in charge of prosecuting people for having abortions after six weeks, it was private citizens. And so that's how the Supreme Court was like, well, I don't know what you can do with that. I'm sure that if someone had passed a law saying private citizens enforce bans against owning guns, they would have figured it out really quick, but they didn't. When you make up a law like that, then how do you comply with it and how you sort out the enforcement mechanism of it? And then what do you do? How do you make up a law to counter that? Because, for example, if the state of Missouri passes a law that says it is now a felony to travel to the state, to any other state to access abortion care. And they come to Minnesota. They have an abortion in Minnesota where it's totally legal. And then Missouri wants to prosecute a doctor in Minnesota for providing legal care. They just make stuff up. And so then it's like, how do you make a bill to prevent against some sort of made up law? It's not rooted in jurisprudence. It's not rooted in a kind of law framework. Usually when you write a law, it's like rooted in something like a jurisdiction that you have or authority that you have, and there are criteria for that, and they just make it up. And so that is where it does get messy. And that's where then it's like the discretion. Individual law enforcement officers. There was a woman in Texas who was arrested for having a miscarriage because the officer didn't understand. These are the things that it does get messy. And that's why taking away people's rights doesn't get neatly contained to just like one group of people. It trickles to a whole bunch of other things. There's always ancillary things that come with it too. This isn't the end of the whole thing. It's the beginning of the whole thing.
Discretion is dangerous. By all means. If you have any additional final thoughts, plugs things that you want to share with folks, please add but you had mentioned that this work, however you define that, right? Work™, requires sustained engagement, right? So I'm curious for either of you, what has allowed you or required you to sustain your engagement? How do you sustain your engagement in this work? Again, simple questions.
Yeah, so simple. I think it's actually easier if I give an example from a different part of work that I don't necessarily do every day because I'm over here handling it in repro, right? Reproductive rights and justice. I'm really deeply concerned about climate collapse. It's happening, we're watching it. People in Jackson can't drink their water and people in Texas don't have power and there's a hurricane barreling towards Bermuda. We're witnessing the climate collapse and Puerto Rico has no power and it's horrible. And it's primarily affecting people of color, particularly Black people in this country. And so I am super passionate about stopping the climate collapse and about climate justice. I don't do that work every day and I actually wouldn't have the capacity to do the kind of work in climate that I do in repo because this is my job, it's what I get paid to do. And so what I do for climate is I, one, I am subscribed to two email lists of people who give me information and then they tell me what I need to do to get involved. And it's like, here's the bill, here's what you need to email about it and here's what you say. I show up to their once a year lobby day and I like lobby. And then I read the information that they send out and I think it requires maybe ten minutes of my time per week and then like a few hours per year, right? So I want to give that as an example because people are passionate about a lot of things. And so if you are out there hustling for, insert cause, any sort of liberation, any sort of movement work, and you are like, I'm really passionate about this and I can't do more other than digest and take a few actions. Sign up for the UnRestricted Minnesota email list because we email with purpose. We ask you to engage with purpose.
Now, if you're a person who was like, actually, I'm not really engaged in movement work right now, and I do have some time, resources, capacity to give, and I want to give it to this. We take volunteers, we will help you host a house party. We'll bring you in more. And so that is you have levels and you just engage at the level that you can. If you have money to give, please give money. If you have time to give, please give your time. If you have knowledge to give or story to share, stories are super important. Please share your story with us. These are the things that you can do. And so, I want people to feel like if they can't give all their time, money and attention to this and they're not useful, that's not true. I really want people to understand that they can be engaged in lots of different ways. It's just the looking away that we can't do anymore.
I wrote the phrase micro dosing engagement based on that answer and I think I'm going to stick with that, of just like, the small snippets of things that you are passionate about but maybe can't live off of. Right. Which feels like my deal. Right. I work in education at this moment, and I do this work with the Institute to focus on Midwest queer and trans communities in various ways. But there's a lot of other stuff that hits me in the sternum and hits me in the gut and I'm like, I want to do it all. We can't do it all.
And that's why that's why it's some people's job to do it all, to tell you how you can get that little bit of maximize it.
Abena, how do you sustain yourself in the work?
Yeah, I think for me, it's important to remember that all of our liberations are tied to each other. And that even though I'm not able to be active in every single movement in our community, that the work that I'm doing in repro space is impacting the work, as Erin just talked about in climate space. Because all of us together, we all need to do this work together. We all need to talk about our issues together and make sure that we're not going against each other. So us talking about repro isn't going against the climate movement or other things that are happening out in our community. And like everything Erin said, small things like signing up for the email list, going to a house party to learn more, talking to your neighbors, sharing resources, all of those things are super important and keep us going.
You don't know something unless you learn about it. Right? So we're fortunate to be in this work every single day, know all about the restrictions and what's moving and what's not. And so you coming to maybe a Zoom community briefing and learning something and taking that back to your neighbor can spark interest. And that adds another supporter for UnRestrict, somebody that's going to go with us to the capital and take action. So the small little things that you do, just sharing a resource, talking to each other, all makes a difference. And also just remembering that we're all in this together and all of us together, no matter what issue we're working on, eventually will lead to our liberation. And so you don't have to like, do it all in order to get to that point, but, you know, stay in your lane and do what you can. The smallest thing makes a difference.
This has been super affirming and fun. I hope that is the experience that you have had. I just wanted to give room. If you had any final thoughts or things that we did not cover or share, the floor is yours to add. Otherwise, I'm going to very gracefully Minnesota goodbye us into ending the conversation. So anything else you want to share?
Yes, joy is liberation as well. And I really encourage people to seek, find, create joy. This can be really heavy stuff that we talk about, that we do, and it's serious, and I don't want to undercut that. But the last act of oppression is not death. It's despair. And despair will lie to you and tell you that there's nothing you can do to change anything. So why even try? It doesn't matter. And that's not true. Despair is a liar. Joy is the antidote to despair. So cultivate, find, create joy. I really encourage people to do that.
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