The governor of North Dakota this week signed into law a new ban on abortions that would have the state stop all abortions after six weeks, essentially making it so abortions are almost entirely illegal in the state.
There is just one abortion facility in this large plains state, Red River Women’s Clinic in downtown Fargo, and if it is ultimately forced to close, women in North Dakota will not have an abortion clinic located within 800 miles of them. That would likely make the north central United States the largest geographic portion of the county without an abortion clinic within a few hours drive or less.
The law will face a legal challenge from the abortion clinic and probably won’t be upheld in court — as it goes against the Roe v. Wade decision and the Supreme Court still has, at best a 5-4 tilt in favor of Roe and legalized abortion.
But, if by chance the law somehow survives, its impact will be massive and may cause many women who may otherwise have close access to abortion to rethink their decision to terminate their child’s life before it begins outside the womb.
However, as the director of the lone abortion facility claims, she thinks women will drive a day or two away regardless of the distance because they are supposedly so desperate for an abortion.
“It happens all the time,” said Tammi Kromenaker, the clinic’s director, reading off directions for a woman who was soon to travel six hours and 17 minutes from the heart of North Dakota’s booming oil country.
“They’ll drive through a blizzard, they’ll drive through a flood,” Kromenaker told ABC News. “We’ve had women who’ve hit deer on the way here, who’ve had flat tires on the way here, and they’ll come through hell or high water because they don’t want to be pregnant.”
If a new law goes into effect, the Red River Women’s Clinic will likely close — leaving one of the nation’s largest swaths without an abortion provider. The area would include western North Dakota, eastern Montana and western South Dakota, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion-rights research group.
To the east and south, the closest abortion providers to Fargo are three and a half hours away in Minneapolis, Minn., and Sioux Falls, S.D. To the west, the closest is in Billings, Mont., about 600 miles and eight-and-a-half hours away.
Although the law may not be upheld, it may save some unborn childrens’ lives, if only because some women think abortions are now illegal and they may decide to keep their baby as a result.
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“We’ve already had phone calls today,” Kromenaker told ABC News on Tuesday, a few hours after Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed the law. “Is my appointment next week still OK? Can I still come in next week?”
Women who had just undergone abortions as Dalrymple signed the law were incensed about it in the clinic’s recovery room, Kromenaker said. Since Tuesday, prospective patients have told Red River they think abortion is already illegal.
While the questions have kept coming, Kromenaker said she’s not worried about the new law.
“I feel very confident that a judge, in looking at both the North Dakota constitution and the U.S. Constitution, will see that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly, and despite numerous attempts to challenge it, has said you cannot ban abortion prior to viability,” Kromenaker said. “I feel very confident that we will remain open and be able to continue to offer services during what will prove to be lengthy litigation.”
North Dakota is one of four states — including Mississippi, South Dakota, and Wyoming — with only one abortion business in the state.