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What a landmark Supreme Court case could mean for North Dakota's only abortion clinic

Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women's Clinic, said a move from Fargo to Moorhead is possible if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade and North Dakota's "trigger ban" on abortions goes into effect.

Volunteers escort a patient to her car Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, outside the Red River Women's Clinic in downtown Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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FARGO — The head of North Dakota’s only abortion clinic calls the newest legal challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court the “gravest threat” to abortion rights in 50 years.

On Wednesday, Dec. 1, the justices began hearing arguments in a Mississippi case that directly challenges the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and a woman’s right to an abortion.

Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women’s Clinic in downtown Fargo, spoke with The Forum by phone from Washington, D.C., where she and colleagues were showing support for the attorneys arguing for reproductive rights.

If Roe v. Wade were overturned, North Dakota is one of 12 states with “trigger ban” laws that would make abortion illegal within 30 days.


Kromenaker said she’s optimistic about preserving access in North Dakota but acknowledges the prospect of a statewide abortion ban.

Neighboring Minnesota is “less hostile” to abortion rights, she said. It's a state likely to allow legal abortions if left to state control.

“We haven’t located any property in Moorhead,” but moving there “would certainly be a possibility,” she said.

As Kromenaker spoke from the nation’s capital, protesters gathered outside the Red River Women’s Clinic Wednesday in Fargo, holding signs and praying.

Bonnie Spies of Fargo, a mother of six children who paced the sidewalk with her rosary, said it would be “fabulous” if Roe were overturned, but she’d like further action.

Bonnie Spies talks Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, about why she demonstrates outside the Red River Women's Clinic in downtown Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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“It’d be nice to see a constitutional amendment that protected all babies rather than just the babies in the good states,” Spies said.

David Foerster of West Fargo, who considers himself a prayer warrior, listened to live coverage of the court proceedings. He said he’s hopeful the court will strike down Roe, but in the meantime, he's focused on dissuading women from getting abortions.

“We’d hope that we could persuade hearts and minds and send them over to the Women’s Care Center, where they can get a free ultrasound and all kinds of resources,” Foerster said.

In the Mississippi case known as Dobbs v. Jackson, the state is appealing to revive its ban on abortion starting at 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Jackson Women's Health Organization, the only abortion provider in the state, challenged the Republican-backed law that was blocked by lower courts.

Abortion providers fear the U.S. Supreme Court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, could uphold the Mississippi law, based on how it ruled in a case this fall.

On Sept. 1, the court decided not to block a Texas law that prohibits most abortions, and allows people to sue clinics or anyone who abets an abortion done after a fetal heartbeat is detected — about six weeks into a pregnancy, which is before the vast majority of abortion procedures occur.

After that ruling, North Dakota legislative leaders said they believe a bill similar to the Texas legislation will be introduced here, but not for more than a year.


House Majority Leader Chet Pollert and Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, both Republicans, have agreed that abortion legislation could be brought up when lawmakers convene for their next regular session in January 2023.

Larry Peterson, a retired history professor at North Dakota State University, is concerned about the consequences of a Roe reversal for women in conservative states.

Larry Peterson, a retired history professor, talks Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, outside of the Red River Women's Clinic in downtown Fargo, about why he believes in a woman's right to have an abortion. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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He said he knows of women who travel from western North Dakota and eastern Montana to Fargo to have an abortion.

“What will that mean for them?” he said.

Kromenaker said no woman should have to leave their state to have an abortion.

“No provider should have to go the lengths we have to, to provide care,” she added.

Related Topics: U.S. SUPREME COURT
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