The lone reproductive health-care clinic that provides abortion services in North Dakota will finish the year having provided the lowest number of abortions in the last decade. The Associated Press reports that the Red River Women’s Clinic expects to have performed a total of 1,125 abortions in 2013, which represents about a 15 percent decline from the 1,330 abortions that were performed at the clinic in 2012.
When the Red River Women’s Clinic opened in 1998, it was the second clinic to provide abortions in the state. In 2001, it became the state’s sole abortion provider.
Anti-choice lawmakers and activists claim the drop in the number of abortions is due to more women becoming educated about abortion and choosing to carry pregnancies to term. State Rep. Bette Grande told the AP, “Women are changing their hearts and minds.” But, reproductive rights advocates believe that harsh restrictions on access to abortion and reproductive health care have led to the decline.
Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women’s Clinic, told the AP that the abortion restrictions passed by the North Dakota legislature have led some women to believe that abortion is no longer legal in the state. “We’re definitely hearing from women that they thought we were closed and that abortion is illegal. Abortion is still legal in the state of North Dakota and we’re still here,” said Kromenaker.
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Earlier this year, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed into law HB 1456, which banned abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, as early as six weeks’ gestation. According to the governor, the legislation was designed specifically as an “attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade.” The law was blocked from taking effect by a federal judge in July, while the legal challenge to its constitutionality is ongoing.
Additionally, Dalrymple also signed HB 1305, which would ban so-called sex-selective abortions, and SB 2305, which requires doctors providing abortion services to receive admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. In September, the Red River Women’s Clinic requested that the lawsuit against HB 1305 be dropped due to the fact that the clinic did not feel it would have any direct impact. Like HB 1456, HB 1305 was also blocked by a federal court while the law’s constitutionality is challenged.
In addition to the bills signed this year, there are several other anti-choice laws that have been passed restricting women’s access to reproductive health care in the state. “I don’t think women’s circumstances and the reason they come to us have changed,” Kromenaker told the AP.