Clinic Leader: Court Case 'gRave Threat' To Abortion Rights

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The head of North Dakota's sole abortion clinic says the stakes have never been higher in the debate over a woman's right to an abortion.

Red River Women's Clinic Director Tammi Kromenaker is heading from Fargo to Washington, D.C., to join a group of abortion supporters outside the Supreme Court Wednesday. That's when justices are scheduled to hear testimony on a case that many believe could decide the fate of the landmark abortion law, Roe v. Wade.

“It just can’t be more serious," Kromenaker said. "It’s a grave threat to abortion rights.”

North Dakota Republican state Sen. Janne Myrdal, who heads the anti-abortion legislative caucus, calls it “the strongest opportunity to see Roe turned back to the states, which is where it belongs.”

The case in front of the high court comes from Mississippi, where a 2018 law would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Supreme Court has never allowed states to ban abortion before viability — the point at roughly 24 weeks when a fetus can survive outside the womb.

Both sides say the decision will in effect draw the line on Roe v. Wade. If the high court backs Mississippi, conservative-led North Dakota and 11 other states with so-called abortion trigger laws would immediately ban all or nearly all abortions.

“The trigger law will actually say that North Dakota is abortion-free. We’re not going to have that in our state,” Myrdal said. “I am hoping and praying for the court to make the right decision.”

The Red River Women's Clinic in downtown Fargo serves patients from several nearby states. Although Fargo borders with Minnesota, where there's currently more protection for abortions than in North Dakota and South Dakota, Kromenaker has rejected suggestions to pack up and move “2,000 yards to Minnesota," as Myrdal said.

“Nobody should have to cross state lines to receive their constitutionally protected care,” Kromenaker said. “I am not willing to give up on North Dakota. We will hang on to North Dakota as long as we can.”

Kromenaker said the decisive rejection by citizens of a so-called “right to life” measure in 2014 “sent a message” that the vast majority of North Dakotans support abortion. Myrdal said that vote was skewed by out-of-state funding and that lawmakers are “overwhelmingly” opposed to abortion.

Myrdal said she was disappointed to have to cancel plans to travel to Washington for an anti-abortion vigil ahead of the debate. She said she would listen to the arguments but wouldn't be keeping a scorecard.

“I think probably the biggest scorecard for us was how the justices did not order an injunction against the Texas law a few months ago,” she said of the initiative that prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, or about six weeks. “That’s the first time in my lifetime that the courts have sided with the pro-life side.”

___

This story has been corrected to show the name of North Dakota’s lone abortion clinic is the Red River Women’s Clinic, not the Red River Valley Women’s Clinic.