After 21 years at her current location in downtown Fargo, ND, Red River Women’s Clinic will move to Moorhead, Minnesota. The new location is a 15-minute drive across the Red River, which forms the state border between Minnesota and North Dakota. .
Last Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the historic Roe v. Wade has been guaranteeing federal abortion rights since 1973. Now states can make their own abortion laws, and North Dakota is among the 13 states with so-called “activation laws” designed to automatically ban abortions. abortions if Roe fell. Now that day has come and the North Dakota ban will take effect on July 28, the state attorney general said Tuesday.
That means the clock is ticking for Red River and its patients.
“We’re trying to continue to pay attention to abortion, answer patients’ questions, and treat our own emotions, ”Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women’s Clinic, told MarketWatch. Everyone at the clinic feels overwhelmed, he said; the Supreme Court ruling left staff shocked, angry and sad. They are catching up with emails and media requests, as well as navigating the changing environment to provide care for abortion.
Kromenaker said patients were worried and feared their appointments would be canceled after the resolution. She and staff sent a text message to all patients who were on schedule this week that her appointment was still valid.
The plan is to provide legal attention to abortion whenever they can, hopefully with little or no interruption before the new location is ready to see patients, Kromenaker said. But it will be difficult: the new space was not originally set up as a clinical space, so it needs a renovation and moving to a new state will require meeting the new state requirements. In addition, they are working to minimize the confusion of their patients, especially with regard to the chronology of their last days at Fargo.
“It’s going to be a huge load,” Kromenaker said. “I think what we are talking about is that we don’t have to put ourselves in the place. We shouldn’t do that. ”(Republican lawmakers say they oppose“ taxpayer-funded abortion, ”and anti-abortion groups say unborn people have a right to life for moral and religious reasons).
The Red River Women’s Clinic has been planning to move for almost a year. After Texas passed SB 8 last fall, also known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, which prohibits abortion after cardiac activity is detected in the embryo, usually after six weeks of pregnancy, Kromenaker said she and the clinic staff were concerned that North Dakota lawmakers could do similar things. restrictions on abortion. Since then, they have been looking for a new location in Minnesota.
“Currently, abortion is legal under Minnesota state law to the point of viability, which usually happens in the 24th week of pregnancy. After Roe v. Wade was canceled, this ends on July 28th.”
Currently, abortion is legal under Minnesota state law to the point of viability, which usually happens in the 24th week of pregnancy. Fargo-Moorhead is a twin city on the border of the two states, so it makes sense to find a place in Moorhead to prevent patients from traveling extra miles. The new location was a mixed-use office building, without the sinks that the clinical space needs. While not the most ideal situation, they secured the space after the May leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion, first reported by Politico, which suggests Roe would be overturned.
Being on the North Dakota-Minnesota border, and near the South Dakota border, Kromenaker said they have been caring for local patients since they started.
In 2020, Red River Women’s Clinic offered 1,171 abortions; 833 were for North Dakota residents, 276 were for Minnesota patients, and the clinic cared for 57 South Dakota patients, according to state data. Most patients had never had an abortion before, and most patients already had at least one child. Most patients were 20 years and early thirties.
But the pandemic has increased demand at the clinic. More South Dakota patients needed abortion care after the state’s only abortion provider paused operations for seven months during the pandemic. Planned Parenthood Health Center in Sioux Falls, SD had reopened with reduced hours, but has now stopped providing abortions because South Dakota’s “active law” went into effect immediately after sentencing. of the Supreme Court. The health center still offers birth control and other reproductive health services.
In recent weeks, the Red River clinic has also seen many patients from the Minneapolis area who came there because of the long wait time for abortion appointments in the region. In some cases, the waiting time was up to a few weeks, Kromenaker said.
The waiting time is in part because clinics are understaffed, a problem that many medical facilities have faced during the pandemic, said Emily Bisek, vice president of strategic communications for Planned Parenthood in the North Central States. In anticipation of the annulment of Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood has expanded service to states like Minnesota in recent months to support patients in neighboring states where “activating laws” were in place to restrict abortion.
“Planned Parenthood has expanded service to states like Minnesota in recent months to support patients in neighboring states where “activating laws” were in place to restrict abortion.”
As an independent private provider, Red River Women’s Clinic does not have the financial support of a national umbrella organization such as Planned Parenthood. While the clinic’s website welcomes donations that need to be made to support its funding, the main source of income has been patient fees.
For years and like many other abortion providers, Kromenaker said the clinic tried to offer affordable prices for patients. In fact, he said that, based on a cost survey they had participated in a few years ago, he suggested that what they charged for patient fees could not cover the estimated costs. The survey suggested a medical abortion should charge at least $ 700 to $ 750, she said, while at the time, the Red River Women’s Clinic provided the service starting at $ 650. Kromenaker said the staff has been “as frugal as we could be” to keep the doors open all these years, using as many cost-saving measures as they can and operating with thin margins.
“Part of that concern and stress about opening in Moorhead was how we would do it without raising our rates to our patients,” he said. At the moment, both a medicated abortion and a suction abortion in the clinic cost $ 700, the cheapest type, and take care of the pregnancy for up to 11 weeks. Kromenaker said the clinic raised the price earlier this year because the cost of supplies increased. With the money needed to renovate the new premises and operate the old one at the same time, he feared that patients ’fees would have to increase even further.
Fortunately for the clinic, North Dakota Abortion Defender created a GoFundMe page on behalf of the clinic, and on Wednesday morning, about 11,000 people made a contribution to the campaign and raised more than $ 815,000. Kromenaker said he still does not believe in the progress and support they received. The page said the funding will go to renovations and furniture, as well as the implementation of the telehealth drug abortion service, a new service that was previously not possible but is legal in Minnesota.
Kromenaker said that in the long run, the new location could also be more ideal. The reporting procedure to the government, while different from North Dakota and requiring navigation, is somehow less onerous. The new location has parking, which the current one does not have. This makes it convenient for staff and also for patients. “Protesters will not be able to be in the face of our patients,” Kromenaker said.
But there is work to be done right now as the clinic moves to a new state. This includes the clinic’s current slogan, “Still Blooming in a Red state.” Kromenaker said it’s something to ponder, “but now below the list of priorities.”