ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Abortion rights demonstrators packed the Minnesota State Capitol grounds Saturday afternoon demanding the state be a leader in providing abortion access following the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
UnRestrict Minnesota and other partners organized the march from St. Paul College to the Capitol.
"It feels really empowering, and it also makes me sad for what we have to fight for right now," said Sarah, of St Paul.
Sarah and her cousin Laureen said they attended the march to show young people they have support.
"I had an abortion in my early 20s and even though it was legal it was still a hard, scary, lonely process, so I hope people know there are people supporting them," said Laureen.
Abortion rights activists also celebrated a major victory last week when a district judge ruled that several of Minnesota laws restricting abortions are unconstitutional. The laws struck down include a 24-hour waiting period; parental notification if a minor seeks an abortion; disclosure of certain medical information before the procedure; and a provision that only allowed doctors to perform abortions.
"These abortion laws violate the right to privacy because they infringe upon the fundamental right under the Minnesota Constitution to access abortion care and do not withstand strict scrutiny," wrote Judge Thomas Gilligan.
During the rally at the Capitol, the crowd heard from dozens of speakers, artists and politicians on the August and November ballots.
"Let's fight to make it legal on a federal level, let's fight to make sure we don't take a step back," said Fifth Congressional District Rep. Ilhan Omar.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison renewed his commitment to not prosecute people who come to the state to seek abortions.
"If they want to come here, they get to come here, and we're gonna stand and fight for their rights, too," said Ellison.
Democratic Gov. Tim Walz also spoke during the rally, and warned elections will determine the future of abortion access in Minnesota.
"What we do come November will shape this state for generations to come. It has been made clear that those folks who wish to hold this office after us have said they will criminalize the right to seek an abortion," said Walz.
In response to Saturday's rally, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Executive Director Scott Fischbach issued the following statement: "The organizers behind Sunday's event oppose even the most reasonable and modest abortion policies, including longstanding Minnesota laws such as our Woman's Right to Know informed consent law and our parental notification law -- both of which were just struck down by an extreme court decision. Our state can do better than this vision of no-limits abortion. We can do better to support and empower women and to value and protect children. Most Minnesotans want commonsense protections for pregnant women and their unborn children, but such protections are not possible as long as leaders like Gov. Walz continue to oppose any and all limits on abortion."
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