Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) warned on Monday that states where abortion remains legal have “no capacity” to absorb an influx of patients from states where it has been banned, after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.
The former Minnesota Planned Parenthood executive told Washington Post Live’s Leigh Ann Caldwell about her visit to a clinic in Duluth, Minn., two weeks ago. She said the clinic has recently started caring for more patients from Wisconsin and Michigan, states where abortion rights are now under threat pending legal battles.
“They are doing everything they can, but they are severely resource-constrained in terms of the providers that they have, in terms of the physical facilities that they have, in terms of the financial resources they need to try to expand access to care, which they desperately want to do,” Smith said.
“This is why I say that a ban on abortion in South Dakota or North Dakota or Wisconsin has effects on people not only in those states but people living in Minnesota because there is no capacity to absorb that additional need in one place,” she added.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D), who is up for reelection this year, signed an executive order on Saturday protecting those seeking abortion who travel to Minnesota.
Waiting times for abortions in Minnesota are already increasing, Smith said, adding that health care centers aren’t equipped to meet the rising demand. She said that private donations could help alleviate the pressure, but wouldn’t be a sustainable solution.
“At the end of the day we can’t solve this problem with philanthropy, we have to solve this problem by changing the laws and making sure that a woman in northern Wisconsin has the same rights that a woman living in northern Minnesota does,” Smith said.
However, Smith conceded that congressional action on abortions was unlikely this session, and has joined calls for the Biden administration to move ahead with executive actions that could help counter tightening abortion restrictions in red states across the country.
In March, the Senate voted 49-51 on a bill that would have put Roe v. Wade’s protections into law, falling well short of the needed 60 votes, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and all 50 Republicans voting “no.”
Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have been discussing compromise legislation, which Smith said hinges on two questions for her: can the legislation achieve 60 votes, and will it protect basic Roe protections and stop “draconian” limitations on the procedure.
Smith echoed many fellow Democrats in saying any progress in the abortion fight depended on the party holding its majority in the House and picking up two Senate seats in November’s mid-terms. That could allow Democrats to eliminate the filibuster, which both Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have resisted for abortion and other issues.
Smith and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), in a joint op-ed this weekend, called for President Biden to consider systemic reforms in the Supreme Court composition and the Electoral College to counter the conservative anti-abortion movement.
Amith urged Democrats to mobilize in every state for all elections, noting it will take time to undo the “dramatic” implications brought on by the court.
“The Supreme Court has spoken, but they will not have the last word,” Smith said.