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Reuters: North Dakota clinic is on front lines of abortion-rights battle

"The North Dakota laws are part of an unprecedented wave of abortion restrictions passed in Republican-controlled states since the party made big gains in the 2010 elections.

In 2011, 92 abortion restrictions were approved in 24 states. The most approved in any previous year was 36. In 2012, 43 more were approved in 19 states. This year, as of July 5, 45 passed in 17 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which researches and tracks abortion laws.

State restrictions typically have ranged from limits on insurance coverage for abortions to requirements that women considering an abortion undergo an ultrasound test, during which technicians typically are required to point out a fetus' visible organs. Some states now have extended waiting periods for those who seek an abortion. The legislation before Texas lawmakers would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

North Dakota - which like Wyoming, South Dakota and Mississippi has just one abortion clinic - has gone further.

One of the new laws bans abortions at the first detection of a fetal heartbeat, about six weeks into pregnancy - the nation's strictest standard. Another requires doctors who perform abortions to get admitting privileges at a local hospital.

If either law withstands legal challenges, the Red River clinic - now in its 15th year in a two-story storefront - would have to close, said director Tammi Kromenaker.

The ban on abortions after six weeks would eliminate 89 percent of her patients, she said. And none of the three out-of-state doctors who travel to North Dakota to perform abortions there could get admitting privileges at any of the three hospitals in Fargo.

One of the hospitals is a facility for veterans; another has a Catholic affiliation and does not grant privileges to abortion providers. The third requires a doctor to admit at least five patients a year to gain privileges.

Kromenaker said the Red River clinic has sent just one patient to a local hospital during the past decade.

'They are putting up barriers that sound reasonable, that sound like they care about women who are having abortions. But in fact they are just trying to put up a wall of regulations and requirements that are impossible to meet,' Kromenaker said."

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