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Published January 13, 2014, 07:56 PM

Abortions at Fargo clinic hit lowest number in more than a decade

The state’s lone abortion provider performed fewer than 1,200 abortions last year, the lowest number in more than a decade and down more than 11 percent from 2012.

By: Kyle Potter, Forum News Service

FARGO — The state’s lone abortion provider performed fewer than 1,200 abortions last year, the lowest number in more than a decade and down more than 11 percent from 2012.

Tammi Kromenaker, executive director of the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, said though the drop is good news on its face, she fears that the number of women seeking abortions hasn’t changed — they’ve simply gone elsewhere.

The clinic performed 1,185 procedures in 2013, including a number of treatments after miscarriages, Kromenaker said. That’s down from 1,330 in 2012 and the lowest number since at least 2001, when the clinic became the only abortion provider in North Dakota. From 2009 through 2011, the clinic performed 1,250 to 1,300 abortions each year.

Kromenaker attributes the drop to the series of laws to tighten abortion restrictions passed by the Legislature last year, which she speculated has given some would-be clients the impression that abortion is now illegal in North Dakota.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed four abortion bills in 2013, including legislation that would ban abortions once a heartbeat is detectable, which can be as early as six weeks. That law — one of the most restrictive in the nation — and another that would require physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital are on hold as legal challenges play out.

“The fact is women still need our services,” Kromenaker said. “With all that our Legislature did, they haven’t prevented our women from unintended pregnancies.”

Kromenaker said she’s awaiting figures from Minnesota and South Dakota to see if more North Dakotans traveled to neighboring states for abortions last year. Those numbers may not be available for months.

Rep. Bette Grande, a Fargo Republican and the author of the fetal heartbeat bill and another abortion-restricting bill, welcomed the news of the drop in abortions performed in North Dakota. She took it as evidence that her legislation — and the discussion about when a fetus has a heartbeat — prompted women to reconsider.

“The more the public knows, the more their hearts and minds are being changed. That’s why the numbers changed,” Grande said.

Kromenaker issued a challenge to lawmakers behind abortion restrictions: Be proactive. As an example, she pointed to Minnesota’s family planning program, which can provide women with free birth control.

“It seems as if they are uninterested in helping women not get pregnant in the first place,” Kromenaker said of lawmakers in Bismarck. “That’s what I would like to see.”

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