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I used to travel to South Dakota to provide abortion care. Since abortion was banned, I started travelling to Iowa.

I am proud to provide abortion care. By doing so, I am privileged to sit across from my patients during their appointments as they share their personal stories with me. While each patient has their own reasons for coming to Planned Parenthood, I hear similar stories a lot. Stories where patients tell me they already have three children and are struggling to take care of them, or that they are not ready to be a mother, or that they don’t know where else they can go for help.

As of today, 17 states have banned abortion, including several bordering Minnesota and more are expected to follow. For 7 years, I travelled to South Dakota to provide abortion care. And this June, I made my last visit to the state before abortion was banned.

I remember that devastating day, and I remember the last abortion patient we saw in South Dakota. Like so many of my patients, she was a mom and she brought her young children with her to her appointment. She chose a medication abortion. She was nervous, but she was fully aware, and devastated along with all of us, that she was the last person to access legal abortion in South Dakota.

Our Sioux Falls health center is still open and providing family planning services. Unfortunately, however, people from South Dakota now must travel out of state for abortion care. Many of them are travelling to Minnesota. I know because I see them, and people from all over our country, in our Minnesota health centers. We are seeing patients from prohibition states as close as South Dakota and Wisconsin, and as far away as Florida, Alabama, Arizona, and Texas. Since June, we’ve seen a 13% increase in patients coming from out of state to our region for abortion care, and since patients are travelling further for abortion care, we’ve seen a 38% increase in second trimester abortions.

Planned Parenthood believes that every person’s experience is important and should be at the center of what we do. Imagine what our world would be like if every time we talked about abortion or birth control or sex education, we centered people instead of politics.

Politics do not belong in my exam room.

I know, because I see it in Iowa, where I now travel to provide abortion care.

Earlier this week, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds swept through Minnesota to campaign with republicans who are committed to following Iowa's dreadful lead. As governor, Kim Reynolds slashed funding for sexual and reproductive health care, defunded Planned Parenthood, and cut funding for comprehensive sex education programs.

Since Governor Reynolds took office as governor, thousands more Iowans are without access to contraception and are foregoing birth control, according to the new Guttmacher Institute Reproductive Health Impact Study. The result of the sharp decline in Iowans accessing reproductive health care comes as Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are skyrocketing. Abortion rates also increased 42% during the same two-year span.

Under Governor Kim Reynolds’ leadership, fewer Iowans are on birth control and more Iowans have STIs without access to affordable sexual and reproductive health care. All combined, Iowa is slipping into an entirely preventable public health crisis.

Don’t let Minnesota be next.

Gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen has a 100% rating from Minnesota’s most extreme anti-choice group, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life. During the recent Republican primary campaign, he surprised no one when he clearly and unambiguously supported banning abortion.

Hedge fund lawyer Jim Schultz has said he’d go “on offense” against abortion.

Governor Kim Reynolds and her predecessor have appointed five state Supreme Court Justices, building a strong majority against abortion access on the bench. Right now, all Iowa state supreme court justices have been appointed by governors who oppose abortion rights.

The lesson from Iowa and across the country is crystal clear — if you want to preserve reproductive freedom in Minnesota, we cannot elect anti-choice politicians like Scott Jensen or Jim Schultz.

Our rights and access to reproductive health care, including legal abortion, depend on elected leaders at all levels of government.

When I sit down across from patients, we won’t be the only people in the room. If elected, Jensen and Schultz will insert their politics into my patients’ appointments, where they do not belong.

We must elect leaders who support the right of every person to make decisions about their own body and will work to protect our rights.

Dr. Sarah Traxler serves as the Chief Medical Officer of Planned Parenthood North Central States (title for identification purposes only).

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