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Advocacy to Protect Reproductive Rights Succeeds at Capitol

Building on our legacy of advocating for systems change, the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota is at the Capitol every year, working for policy change and funding to strengthen gender and racial justice. Our 2023 legislative agenda starts with listening and is built on critical data from our Status of Women and Girls in Minnesota report. Centering the voices of those most impacted by policy, we are leveraging our networks, leadership, and power to engage with legislators from across the state to build a Minnesota where all women, girls, and gender-expansive people can thrive.

As one component of our legislative agenda, the Women’s Foundation supports ensuring access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare, including abortion and contraception, by adding the right to reproductive health care to state law. Although Minnesota has been a sanctuary for legal abortion and other reproductive health care, we know from our data that legal ability is not the same as true access for women who are Black, Native, low-income, from communities of color, or from greater Minnesota. Access to the full range of reproductive health care is vital to the health, independence, and economic stability of women, girls, and their families. Ensuring the law reflects our commitment to access all forms of reproductive health care is a critical step toward creating reproductive justice.

With a new legislative season off to a busy start, we have been advancing our policy agenda with a strong presence at the Capitol. This month, board member Brenda Quaye, Cabinet members Amy Ruiz Plaza and Monali Bhakta, and WFM President & CEO, Gloria Perez, testified at hearings on the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act, which codifies Minnesotans’ right to a comprehensive spectrum of reproductive health care, including the right to contraception, the right to carry a pregnancy to term, and the right to abortion. 

In supporting the bill, Gloria Perez testified, “Access to reproductive health care creates economic opportunities, including the ability to fulfill educational dreams, start a business, and grow a career. Without it, women cannot make decisions that are in the best interests of their children, their families, and themselves. Research on economic disparities shows that families thrive when women and girls are healthy and well.”

We engage the leadership of the Young Women’s Cabinet as experts of the issues they experience directly and facilitate their ongoing leadership development with the Office of the Governor and Lt. Governor, the YWCA St. Paul, and Wilder’s Community Equity Program, which trains leaders of color and American Indian leaders to have a powerful and influential voice in the legislative process and drive social change. Our strategic investments are building and resourcing a coalition of advocates like the Cabinet to engage with legislators and expand legislation for women, girls, and gender-expansive people across the state.

In a House Health Committee hearing, Amy Ruiz Plaza shared, “Restricting abortion access disproportionately impacts marginalized groups of people – especially young BIPOC women. Safe, legal abortions are a necessary component of comprehensive health care.”

Shayla Walker, executive director of Our Justice, an abortion fund and WFM grantee-partner, also testified and shared context about the framework of reproductive justice, “which analyzes how people’s ability to determine their own reproductive destiny is linked directly to the conditions of their community.” Reproductive justice “holds that support and resources for making choices regarding reproduction must be at a minimum safe, affordable, and accessible.”

Cabinet member Monali Bhakta testified about her experience and commitment to the issue, “As a woman of color who has felt excluded by and discriminated against in the political process, health care, and legal systems, I have witness systemic barriers that prevent our women from being able to access quality reproductive health care in our state. Because of ongoing discrimination that is often unseen, I believe HF 1 is needed to ensure everyone has the right to access reproductive healthcare in Minnesota.”

In support of our impact area of Holistic Well-being & Reproductive Justice, the Women’s Foundation is also advocating for legislation and funding that supports Black and Indigenous maternal health, community-based healing grants, and family planning special grants to increase access to reproductive health care.

Learn more about the research and Women’s Foundation investments in Reproductive Justice.

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