A Future We Are Building Together

Together, we have the broad vision, strategy and drive to keep going even when we experience defeats. We know we can’t go back, only forward—to a better future where everyone, no matter their sex, gender or gender expression, is able to grow, love, and thrive.

A letter from Gender Justice Executive Director Megan Peterson

Dear Friends,

As I reflect on the enormous changes of the past year, I am thinking of what I saw on July 17th. Over ten thousand Minnesotans made signs and joined us for a historic rally at the State Capitol following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that ended the federal right to abortion. Some messages were funny, like “Abort the Court!” Others were straight to the point, like “Abortion is healthcare.” But the sign I saw that sticks with me now simply said, “We can’t go back.” This means, of course, that we must not return to a way of life when abortion was illegal in many places—difficult, dangerous and even deadly to obtain. But over the past several months, the phrase has changed for me; I see it now as a roadmap to new possibilities.

Roe is gone, and we can’t go back to what was always just one fragile defense against relentless assaults on reproductive freedom and abortion care. We can’t go back to pretending that as long as the federal right to abortion is intact, abortion is assured, accessible, and affordable for all people who need it. The hard truth is, Roe was never enough. We can’t go back to being a movement forever on the defensive in the courtroom, rather than one dreaming big and organizing powerfully for expansive, intersectional and holistic reproductive justice—including, but also beyond, abortion.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is a heartbreaking and devastating loss. But it also presents the opportunity to build a new future—one that is stronger and more just than ever before. We can’t go back, so we must go forward. And Gender Justice is leading the way. As I stood on the front steps of our state capitol in July, watching a never-ending stream of people coming together for abortion access, I knew we were ready for what comes next.

As I wrote in last year’s newsletter, Gender Justice was prepared for the likely outcome that the majority conservative Supreme Court would overturn Roe. But we did not just wait for that to happen, nor were we complacent in the knowledge that abortion is a guaranteed right in Minnesota under our state constitution. Instead, back in 2019, Gender Justice and our partner The Lawyering Project laid the groundwork to increase access to abortion here in Minnesota by filing our landmark lawsuit, Doe v. Minnesota, which challenged Minnesota’s numerous abortion restriction laws as unconstitutional.

And just weeks after Dobbs was handed down, the court in Doe in large part agreed, issuing the most sweeping reassertion of abortion rights in Minnesota in a generation. Judge Thomas A. Gilligan ruled that the vast majority of Minnesota’s abortion restrictions were unconstitutional—including the two-parent notification law for minors, the 24-hour mandatory delay, the ban on qualified clinicians providing abortion care, the law requiring providers to recite disinformation about abortion to patients, and more—and permanently blocked their enforcement. As swiftly as the U.S. Supreme Court took away the right to an abortion on the federal level, here in Minnesota, access to abortion care became stronger.

As an intersectional organization, Gender Justice is not focused solely on abortion rights, but on a broad vision of gender equity for all people. So as we fought to end unconstitutional restrictions on abortions, we also filed a lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) on behalf of our client, Christina Lusk, a transgender woman in DOC custody who is being held in a men’s facility rather than a women’s facility where she belongs. We brought cases on emergency contraception and the rights of nursing mothers to trial. We unveiled our toolkit, “Cool 4 School,” to educate transgender students and their families on their rights at school, and more.

We were able to secure these huge wins and bravely take on new fights because of our supporters and partners, who have come with us every step of the way. Together, we have the broad vision, strategy and drive to keep going even when we experience defeats. We know we can’t go back, only forward—to a better future where everyone, no matter their sex, gender or gender expression, is able to grow, love, and thrive.

Let’s build it together.

Megan Peterson, Executive Director of Gender Justice

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