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Fundraiser planned to fight anti-abortion bills

FARGO -- The Red River Women's Clinic will be seeing a lot of courtrooms as a result of the spate of anti-abortion bills recently signed into law.

And that means North Dakota's lone abortion clinic will be seeing a lot of legal bills.

Even with help from the Center for Reproductive Rights, which has agreed to take the lead in challenging the new laws, the clinic must hire local lawyers to help plead their cases.

To help defray those costs, clinic supporters plan a combined fundraising concert and silent auction May 30 at the Aquarium in downtown Fargo.

"I feel very strongly about this," said Callie Burns, who volunteered to spearhead the fundraising event. "I know a lot of local bands feel very strongly about this."

Burns at first thought of a silent auction, but she quickly learned of musicians' interest in staging a benefit concert.

Four bands will perform for the concert, which has a $5 admission fee: Egypt, SOTOS, Cass County Criminals and What Kingswood Needs.

Local businesses are donating goods and services for a silent auction, which will be from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., when the event ends.

Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women's Clinic, welcomes the fundraiser.

"That's fantastic," she said, recalling her reaction to learning of the event.

In the past, the clinic's patients, through the fees they pay, have paid the clinic's legal bills.

But the enormity of the challenges facing the clinic due to the laws, some pushed by national advocacy groups, should not fall solely to the clinic's patients, Kromenaker said.

"I don't believe this should all sit on the shoulders of our patients," she said. "I don't think that's fair."

The Center for Reproductive Rights will take the lead in the lawsuits challenging the laws, but requires clinics to hire local counsel to assist, Kromenaker said.

Donations have flowed into the clinic from all over the country following national publicity about the new laws, including one that will ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

"We've never received that kind of support," Kromenaker said, adding that donations since have slowed to a trickle.

"We probably have a year of local counsel covered," she said, but litigation can go on for years.