By Olivia Slyter
Photos by Sabrina Hornung
For months, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has been asking the heavy question “Should the 1973 ruling of Roe v. Wade be overturned?” On May 2nd, Politico leaked a February 2022 draft of the Supreme Court ruling, revealing that they could vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. The draft and original article from Politico (written by Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward) was rapidly circulated throughout the country, leading to outrage and protests from some and celebration from others.
While nearly everyone has their own thoughts about the reversal, there are still many who do not know or fully understand what Roe v. Wade is. In 1970, a lawsuit was filed by “Jane Roe” against Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas County, Texas. Jane (a fictional name used to protect the identity of the plaintiff) argued that the state laws against abortion were unconstitutional, and that they went against the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court sided with Roe in a 7-2 majority vote. Since this case, abortion has been mostly protected in the United States.
The overturning of Roe v. Wade would have detrimental effects on women’s right to abortions. Currently, abortion is protected federally. If Roe v. Wade were to be officially overturned, it would be up to individual state legislatures whether or not to restrict or ban abortion.
Currently, thirty-two states are on the docket to either restrict or completely ban abortion with the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Fourteen states (including nearby Montana, Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin) are ready to ban abortion at 22 weeks or earlier. Five states (Alabama, Arizona, Michigan, West Virginia and Wisconsin) had abortion restrictions put into place prior to the ruling of Roe v. Wade that would likely be reinstated after its reversal, and thirteen states have trigger laws put into place that would ban abortion in almost all cases almost immediately after the Supreme Court releases its final ruling.
One of these states is North Dakota.
As of January 1, 2022, a multitude of restrictions were in effect in North Dakota. This includes required state-directed counseling, parental consent of minors’ choice to receive an abortion, lack of insurance coverage, and a limit of 20 weeks (potentially more if the case is life-threatening). While these restrictions are already extremely limiting, the complete ban of abortion would make legal abortions impossible in the state of North Dakota.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, it would fall to the local state’s attorneys to pursue abortion cases as class C felonies, putting abortion on the level of negligent homicide.
Because of the restrictions currently put in place, there is a severe deficiency of abortion clinics in North Dakota. The Red River Womens’ Clinic located in Fargo is the only place in North Dakota where people can receive legal abortions.
Tammi Kromenaker Director of the Red River Womens’ Clinic is involved in all aspects of day-to-day operations at the clinic, as well as patient care. She records the abundance of women who receive abortion care at the clinic, saying “We provide approximately 20-25 abortions per week at our clinic and about 1150-1200 abortions per year.”
However, abortion care is not the only service provided by the clinic. Along with medication abortion within ten weeks and in-clinic suction abortion up to 16 weeks, the Red River Women’s Clinic also provides various birth control methods. These methods include birth control pills, patches, rings, Depo injections, implants and IUD insertions. If Roe v. Wade were overturned, and the clinic unable to operate legally in the state, the clinic would be forced to shut down, making access to these contraceptive methods difficult to obtain for some women. Pregnancy testing, STI testing and miscarriage management is also provided at the clinic.
The clinic is not the only part of North Dakota that would be drastically and devastatingly impacted by the ban. Kromenaker explains:
“Any reversal of Roe v Wade would disproportionately affect black, indigenous, people of color, rural folks, and under-resourced people who already face many obstacles traveling to the one clinic in Fargo, North Dakota. It would add a layer of stigma to those needing abortion services knowing that there is no clinic available to them in their home state.”
With the possibility of abortion bans, people are already searching for alternative clinics, methods, etc. Many women will travel to nearby (or far, if necessary) states to receive care. Others, with little-to-no access to legal abortion care, will resort to at-home abortions.
The clinics themselves are also searching for ways to continue to support women in today’s society. The Red River Women’s Clinic is determined to continue providing its services to women in the North Dakota area. Kromenaker states, “That may mean moving our clinic to Minnesota, which is considered a haven state.” It is clear that clinics are doing everything in their power to stand for women.
Like all abortion clinics, the Red River Women’s Clinic is not immune to backlash. Regularly, they are faced with protesters outside the building. Harassment, intimidation, and bullying of patients is not uncommon among those gathered at the clinic. However, to combat these protesters, there are many ways to support the clinic. Volunteering as an escort to help patients enter the building, donating to the ND WIN Abortion Access Fund, and even educating yourself, as well as family and friends, about the importance of abortion, are all ways to help and support the Red River Women’s Clinic, especially in these times of fear and uncertainty.
With all of this in mind, it is crucial to remember that abortion is still legal in all fifty states. Finding the morale to keep fighting is critical to combating a Roe v. Wade reversal. Until a final decision, Kromenaker says:
“Don’t invent a new service, don’t talk about ‘underground railroads’ for abortion care or some of these other new ideas or organizations that pop up in times like this. Look to local abortion clinics and funds, they have been doing this work for a long time. Look to black women and women of color for leadership. Find your local independent clinic, we are often on the front line in the most hostile states. Keep your outrage fueled, this is the long game and we need folks to continue to fight and keep their energy going into the midterm elections.”
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