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Robin Huebner, Published January 28 2013

Robin Huebner Reports: Fargo clinic director says new bills would effectively ban abortion

BISMARCK - The director of North Dakota’s only abortion clinic will testify here today and Wednesday against bills aimed at limiting abortions in the state.

North Dakota already has some of the strictest abortion laws in the country, said Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo.

“If these bills pass,” Kromenaker said, “it would be tantamount to banning abortion.”

The bills are among several under discussion by state lawmakers in a flurry of activity following the 40th anniversary last week of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal.

Kromenaker testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning against SB 2305, which would require any physician performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

She says Mississippi – a state that also has only one abortion clinic – has passed similar legislation.

One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Bette Grande, R-Fargo, said it’s a matter of safety, especially in cases of non-surgical or medication-induced abortions, where the pregnancy termination is still in progress when the woman leaves the clinic.

“How do you get follow-up care when you are in the middle of the procedure?” Grande said Monday.

Kromenaker said it would be difficult for her doctors to establish local hospital privileges, because they are not local. The Red River Women’s Clinic employs three family medicine physicians who perform abortions – two from Minneapolis and one from Colorado.

Kromenaker said so few women who get an abortion at her clinic end up with complications that establishing local hospital privileges wouldn’t be necessary.

The clinic director said she will also testify again Wednesday morning before the House Human Services committee on HB 1456.

Under the bill’s language, a doctor could not perform an abortion on a pregnant woman before determining if her unborn child has a detectable heartbeat. The abortion could go forward if no heartbeat was detected or if necessary to save the woman’s life.

The bill states that a doctor may not perform an abortion on a pregnant woman whose fetus has been determined to have a heartbeat.

Any doctor who performed an abortion prior to a search for a detectable heartbeat would be charged with a Class C felony.

Grande, who also co-sponsored this bill, said the change is needed because of 3-D technology that didn’t exist 40 years ago.

“We are seeing that heartbeat taking place,” Grande said. “Certainly there’s a big difference in what was thought then, and what we’re seeing with our eyes now.”

North Dakota law already requires abortion providers to offer patients a chance to hear the heartbeat of their fetus prior to receiving an abortion – if they have the equipment to do so, which the Fargo clinic does not.

The two bills are among several related to abortion North Dakota lawmakers are considering, including a proposal to ban abortion in cases of genetic defects or for gender selection.

Kromenaker said several local physicians will testify with her against bills that restrict women’s reproductive rights.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Robin Huebner at (701) 451-5607

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