On Labor Day 2022, a large caliber bullet pierced the front window of our midwife-led birth center on Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis. It flew through the waiting room at head height, passed through a wall into an exam room, tore a hole just above a fetal development poster, and lodged in the far wall.
Thank God, no one was in the building. But births do happen at all hours and, in this case, a death might have too.
The bullet that hit our building last September was probably fired randomly, likely one of many fired in Minneapolis that weekend. A quick look at the Minneapolis "shot spotter" webpage is frightening. Activations in areas of north Minneapolis and the near Southside look like tornadoes on a weather map.
The unequal burden of gun violence in our community is appalling. Since Memorial Day 2020, Minnesotans have been forced to face stark racial disparities. The 2022 city of Minneapolis "Gun Violence Demographics" report reveals one Black shooting victim for every 150 Black residents — compared with a rate of one white victim for every 3,768 white residents.
That 25-times-higher risk of getting shot leads to the heartbreak of innocent children killed from random gunfire.
The dreadful reality of gun violence has complex causes. Some are deep rooted and spiritual — out of the reach of any law. Yet it is essential that existing gun laws are enforced.
A recent shooting led the Star Tribune Editorial Board on Jan. 30 to call for the prohibition of firearms at public recreation centers. In 2022, the DFL campaigned on addressing gun violence. The party appears likely to deliver significant gun restrictions this year.
But another issue has been the highest DFL priority — the rapid passage and signature into law of a bill enshrining a right to abortion in Minnesota law, known as the PRO Act.
It is clear that the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs decision, returning the abortion issue to the states, was a major factor in bringing the DFL to complete control of Minnesota state government. Narrow wins in outstate Senate districts provided the one-vote majority to ensure passage of the PRO Act.
But the DFL isn't stopping there. A sweeping, indiscriminate repeal of all regulation of abortion is rumbling down the tracks. HF 91 (SF 70) would dismantle bipartisan guardrails on abortion that have broad public support.
A few DFL legislators have the ability to put the brakes on this legislative malpractice.
All of this comes with a state court context. In response to a lawsuit last year, a Ramsey County judge was given an ax to chop down the protective tree of regulations that had grown for decades through the political process. Regulations such as parental notification, licensing requirements and provision of resources for perinatal palliative care and Down syndrome came crashing down. His ruling is being challenged by a group of mothers and a decision is due by early March. But the DFL Legislature may uproot the whole tree before that time.
A party truly interested in "One Minnesota" would engage in the careful, rational work of evaluating each abortion restriction independently, but that isn't happening. Buried in the provisions of the DFL legislative scattershot approach is the removal of a prohibition on abortions being performed in licensed birth centers. The moral and medical schizophrenia of such a move is breathtaking. It is akin to allowing firearms to be carried and discharged in day care centers.
In addition, HF 91 (SF 70) would put an end to mandatory reporting of abortion statistics. Would gun violence prevention be enhanced by ending data reporting? Of course not. Similarly, a lack of abortion information will make informed public and health policy debate impossible.
Though still tragic, the number of abortions performed in Minnesota has decreased to about 10,000 per year. Nearly 90% are done in the first trimester, two out of three of those with medication. But that still means more than 1,000 abortions are done beyond 12 weeks, with the majority for nonmedical reasons.
For decades, Gallup polling has consistently shown that only one in three people support the DFL position of no abortion restrictions, while 60% support abortion only in the first 12 weeks. Many of us who oppose unrestricted abortion also support gun control legislation. We also support maternity care reform that improves care for all and addresses racial disparities.
What we do not support is the heat-of-the-moment shotgun approach to the repeal of any and all abortion regulations. We also oppose any effort to cut off the small amount of public support for abortion alternatives. We believe that the majority of our fellow Minnesotans agree.
As these bills come to the floor, I pray that a few courageous DFL legislators will listen to their consciences and constituents and vote "No."
Steve Calvin is a Minneapolis physician. The views expressed here are solely his own.