Current and former Minnesotans remember life before Roe v. Wade

24 June 2022

Mary Kunesh, 61

Mary Kunesh was 12 years old when the Roe decision came down, and remembers clearly the before and after — both what changed, and what didn’t.

“Really, a sense of relief for many, many women, because now they had a choice, where before their choices could be life-shattering no matter what they did,” said Kunesh.

But the world didn’t transform overnight, Kunesh recalled. Unmarried women who got pregnant still experienced stigma and shame. Growing up in a conservative Catholic family — Kunesh was one of 13 children — sex was a taboo topic. Her mother had told her daughters that if they became pregnant, there would be “a great estrangement.”

In 1978, at age 17, Kunesh was sexually assaulted by a classmate. She struggled to wrap her head around what had happened, much less what to do next. She confided in her oldest sister, who took her to Planned Parenthood in St. Paul. There, Kunesh learned that she had an ectopic pregnancy, in which a fertilized egg becomes trapped in the fallopian tube. The condition is fatal if left untreated.

Kunesh received medical treatment from a physician in Minneapolis. For decades, only her sister knew the full story.

“That’s just something that I’ve carried along with me through this time,” said Kunesh, now a state senator. “It just made me think about how many women or victims of violence never talk about it, through shame or not having processed the violence, and go to their graves with that burden on their hearts and their souls.”

Listen to Mary’s story.0:55

Above, Kunesh with a photo of her late sister and confidant, Julie.

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