Abortion Access Issues Loom Large in ND

Mike Moen
Special to Devils Lake Daily Journal

Despite changes to federal regulation, abortion access remains limited in North Dakota.

It's a situation an expected ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court concerning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision could exacerbate, and reshape an issue deeply dividing the state.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration permanently lifted restrictions dealing with women seeking abortion pills through the mail after a telehealth consultation.

Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women's Clinic, said it will not matter for North Dakota, because the state has its own restrictions on telehealth visits for the pill.

"That means that our patients need to come to our facility," Kromenaker explained. "A doctor is not gonna drive around and go to people's homes and give it to them there. That's impossible."

Her facility is the only abortion clinic located in North Dakota, meaning women seeking care have to travel a great distance.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a Mississippi case viewed as a threat to Roe v. Wade staying intact. North Dakota is one of a dozen states where abortions would be banned if the landmark law were overturned. And anti-abortion advocates in the Legislature have pledged restrictions similar to ones recently adopted in Texas.

Some lawmakers argued the issue needs to be decided by the state.

Kromenaker pointed out as some moderate lawmakers leave the Legislature, access becomes a great concern, especially ahead of the Supreme Court ruling. She noted outside forces compel them to do all they can to stay open.

"We keep on top of all the possible advances that we can and comply with the standard of care," Kromenaker emphasized. "We're also complying with the very restrictive North Dakota law."

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 72% of North Dakota women live in counties outside where the state's lone abortion clinic is located.

Anti-abortion advocates say religious beliefs play a role in their decision, but supporters of more access contended people can encounter a variety of unexpected situations, and in some pregnancies, emergencies make abortion a necessary option.