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​Communities Adjust and Rally After Overturn of Roe v. Wade

News | July 20th, 2022

By Laura Simmons

The recent overturn of Roe v. Wade allowed North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley to sign North Dakota’s trigger law, making abortion illegal starting July 28, 2022.

Organizations providing abortion access, such as the North Dakota Women in Need Abortion Access Fund and the Red River Women’s Clinic,have had to adjust. Communities have come together to fight for what they believe, whether they be anti-abortion or abortion-rights activists.

“It (abortion) is a form of health care and having the health care and access to it is essential to being able to fulfill our lives,” WIN Fund Board President Destini Spaethsaid. “It's required for self-determination.”

Spaeth said she is unsure what the future of North Dakota holds for North Dakota WIN. Spaeth referred to Texas Senate Bill 8,which allows an individual to sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion. Spaeth said the vague wording could mean that the Uber driver, abortion fund or volunteer escorts fall under the law.

“So (laws in North Dakota against aiding and abetting) are up in the air,” Spaeth said. “We've heard that it might not be a priority for this year's legislative session. But North Dakota is unpredictable and the North Dakota legislature has always been hostile to abortion rights.”

Spaeth said North Dakota WIN, in response to the Supreme Court’s decision, is updating its policies and expanding its scope in order to be more inclusive, especially for South Dakota patients traveling for care after the South Dakota clinic closed.

She said there is more pressure among clinics trying to meet the need of pregnant people traveling across states after clinic closures. Even with the Dobbs v. Jacksonruling leak, Spaeth said clinics and abortion access care organizations were still not able to fully prepare.

“I trust the abortion community to not turn anybody away and to get people the care that they need so that they can live their best lives,” Spaeth said.

95% of North Dakota WIN’s patients go to RRWC, according to Spaeth. The RRWC is planning to move to Moorhead, Minn. so it can continue providing abortions.

The RRWC was too busy to provide an interview.

A GoFundMe, initiated by a “North Dakota abortion defender” to raise money for RRWC’s move has raised about $955,000 as of July 17 with the help of about 12,400 donors.

According to the GoFundMe page, the RRWC will be using the money to cover not only the expenses pertaining to moving, but also a telehealth services contract, a fence, security equipment, HVAC and plumbing repairs and telephone and IT installations.

The RRWC is a place where opposing viewpoints meet every Wednesday when the sidewalk is lined with volunteer escorts and anti-abortion advocates.

Marsha and Byron Kidder said they have traveled about an hour to the clinic every Wednesday for the past three years. They said they come to pray and give information, including abortion reversal services. They also referred to the Women’s Care Center as an alternative, free source of help.

The Women’s Care Center declined to be interviewed.

Ken Koehler was another anti-abortion advocate at RRWC. Koehler said he’s been coming every Wednesday since the clinic opened because he believes human life is sacred and should be protected.

“I was very pleased (about the overturning of Roe v. Wade),” Koehler said. “There was absolutely nothing in the Constitution that ever protected abortion, and sadly it took 50 years and 60 plus million human lives lost until that was legally declared.”

North Dakota WIN, along with Planned Parenthood North Dakota Advocate,planned Abortion Access Evening of Action, an abortion-rights rally, July 9.

“Our intent is to educate the community by giving them the resources they need for accessing abortion care, supporting somebody who needs an abortion (and) ways that they can get involved in reproductive rights and activist work,” Spaeth said. “We try to bring in a variety of speakers.”

Spaeth said it's important to have diverse speakers because abortion bans disproportionately affect minorites, especially affecting rural and low-income North Dakotans.

Attendees of the event were able to hear from a variety of speakers, part of the Indigenous, Black and Transgender communities.

Rep. Karla Rose Hanson spoke at the event. Hanson said it could be possible for lawmakers to remove current abortion protections in cases of rape, incest or when the woman’s life is at risk. She also said it is possible for lawmakers to restrict birth control, ban IVF and keep people from crossing state lines for abortion.

“I want you to be vocal,” Hanson said. “I want you to vote and help others vote. I want you to have patience and persistence.”

A Planned Parenthood representative told the High Plains Reader that over 600 people attended the event.

One attendee, Levi Mickelson, said he was there because he knew a lot of friends and family members who considered or had an abortion.

“As a trans man, (abortion access) is a whole new problem entering my community that I didn't really think that I would have to face until now,” Mickelson said. “I can't sit back and just let it happen without saying something.”

Not everyone at the rally was there to advocate for abortion access. One attendee Anna Brendemuhl said she was with about 20 anti-abortion activists. She said they were there to show a different opinion.

“I think women's rights are important,” Brendemuhl said. “But I don't think they should have the right to kill another person. And I believe science says that life begins at conception. So I don't think abortion is morally right.”

So far, rallies such as this one have not yet led to any change in North Dakota laws. The RRWC will continue operating, but across the river in Minnesota. The volunteer escorts and anti-abortion advocates said they will follow.

Spaeth said North Dakota WIN will continue helping all pregnant people access abortion by providing bus tickets, hotel vouchers, meals, assistance with the abortion procedure, STI (sexually transmitted infection) testing, ultrasounds and health care supplies.

“We're going to continue doing what we do best, and that is supporting people in getting the care that they need leading up to and on the day of their appointment,” Spaeth said.

RRWC Lawsuit

Co-plaintiffs Red River Women’s Clinic and RRWC’s Doctor Kathryn Eggleston filed a lawsuit for themselves and their patients July 6 against co-defendants North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley and Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick, in an attempt to void the Abortion Ban because the plaintiffs claim it both violates the Constituion of the State of North Dakota and the provisions for the trigger law have not been met.

The lawsuit states, “The Abortion Ban and the Clinic’s closure will have a devastating impact on the health, well-being, and economic prospects of women in North Dakota.”

The lawsuit went on to cite studies and statistics supporting their claims. One study predicted the number of pregnancy-related deaths per year would increase by 21% if abortion became illegal. Later, the lawsuit cited research showing women forced to carry pregnancies were four times more likely to live below the federal poverty level.

The case is still underway.

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