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Tammi Kromenaker, Published April 03 2013

Letter: Full-out assault on women

I am disappointed that Gov. Jack Dalrymple decided not to veto any of the abortion-ban bills that came to his desk. With the stroke of his pen, he put North Dakota front and center in both the national and international epicenter of abortion politics – a place I can only guess that most North Dakotans do not want to be. Legislators themselves have expressed “abortion fatigue.”

Red River Women’s Clinic has always been a target of those who oppose the care we provide. But this latest package of bills aimed at banning abortion, IVF and comprehensive sex education in North Dakota has brought the state to attention. It is a full-out assault on women and reproductive justice. Rallies held across the state that were organized by Stand Up for Women ND have shown that thousands of residents are enraged and fed up by what has happened this legislative session. The clinic has been fielding calls and inquiries from media outlets all across the United States and from international sources. Floods of supportive emails, Facebook and Twitter messages have poured in. Strangers have stopped me on the street, in the coffee shop and at the salon. They have expressed dismay; some said they are in mourning. Others have asked: “What can we do?” “How can I help?” “What is the next move?” People are clamoring to act and need direction.

What the next steps are for the clinic may not seem glamorous, nor will they appease folks in the short run. The Center for Reproductive Rights has vowed to challenge HB 1456, aka the Heartbeat Bill, in court on behalf of our clinic. This can be a slow, drawn-out process. The center and clinic go to court just this next month on legislation aimed to limit medication abortion that was passed in the 2011 Legislature.

The center has further stated that it is prepared to take whatever steps necessary to keep the clinics open with regard to SB 2305, the admitting privileges bill.

There are many actions that people who are outraged at these attacks on women’s reproductive rights can take: Follow the Stand Up for Women Facebook page – rallies, flash mobs and other opportunities to publicly voice your frustrations are in the works. You can become a volunteer clinic escort. Women entering our clinic are harassed and intimidated each week right here, right now.

SB 2368 is the last anti-woman bill that is still in front of the Legislature. This bill contains an amendment, written by Rep. Bette Grande, R-Fargo, that has the potential to defund every hospital in the state that offers comprehensive obstetrical care because sometimes pregnancy terminations are medically necessary. Under SB 2368, a doctor could not tell a woman an abortion is necessary to preserve health such as to prevent a stroke or heart attack, or treat cancer that may result in severe impairment if their hospital receives any state funds or federal funds.

Write or call your legislator today to tell them this bill should be stopped in its tracks. You can talk to your family, friends and colleagues about what these bills mean to you. We can create a culture change here as a result of these attacks on reproductive rights.

In the longer run, we need to replace those in office who have opened our state to these assaults. We need to find candidates who will not be bullied into using our time, energy and resources on unconstitutional bills. We need to remember in 2014 and 2016, and ask more of those who represent us.

Red River Women’s Clinic is working to assure the women we serve that we are open, and that abortion is still legal in North Dakota. Access to our services is and will remain available. We are not deterred. We stand strong in the face of this opposition. We’ve been here for 15 years, offering safe, emotionally supportive care. Our skilled, compassionate and dedicated team of doctors, nurses, patient advocates and support staff is committed to continuing in that mission.

Kromenaker is clinic director, Red River Women’s Clinic, Fargo.