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Clinic head: Abortion laws put ND among the strictest: Kromenaker addresses UND legal organization

FNS File Photo Members of the North Dakota Right to Life organization gather in front of the Red River Women’s Clinic May 7, 2011, in downtown Fargo. The silent “Jericho March” paraded through the streets of downtown and ended at the clinic, which is the state’s only one that provides services for abortions.

By Stephen J. Lee

Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS — The director of North Dakota’s only abortion clinic urged law students at the University of North Dakota on Tuesday to stay informed and active in fighting what she said were new state laws, still being battled in court, that would make North Dakota one of the most hostile states to abortion.

Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women’s Health Clinic in Fargo, and Dr. Stephanie Dahl, a reproductive endocrinologist for Sanford Health, spoke to about 33 students and others, sponsored by UND’s chapter of The American Constitution Society, a legal organization and a more liberal counterpart to the conservative Federalist Society.

They updated the students on what was a nationally recognized legislative flurry last year in North Dakota of four new laws adding restrictions to abortion.

In fact, Kromenaker said, it was one year ago this week she was calling for rallies across the state, calling on Gov. Jack Dalrymple to veto the four bills.

Dalrymple signed the bills, which immediately faced court challenges.

Three of the laws ban abortions based on gender selection or genetic abnormalities, abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected or abortions after 20 weeks, when a fetus is thought to feel pain. A fourth requires all physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Cases continue

Kromenaker said the gender selection/fetal abnormality law isn’t really a concern because her clinic doesn’t get women asking for abortions for those reasons.

Sanford Health made the admitting-privileges issue moot by surprising Kromenaker and giving privileges to the three family medicine physicians who alternate performing abortions once a week at the clinic, she said.

Next week, oral arguments will be heard in federal court in Bismarck over the fetal heartbeat law, Kromenaker said.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland last July issued a preliminary injunction keeping the law from going into effect, saying it violated the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision widely interpreted as allowing abortions up to viability. That’s typically said to be 24 weeks, Kromenaker said.

In signing the law, Dalrymple said it’s a good test of changing medical opinion on the limits of Roe v. Wade.

Kromenaker said she will be in Bismarck on April 4 for the arguments because her clinic’s ownership, MKB Management, is a party in the case.

Dahl, who works with in vitro fertility services, said a proposed constitutional amendment slated to be on the statewide ballot in November on human personhood would bring “a whole new world of unintended consequences.” It would require that the right to life of “every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected,” Dahl said.

That would affect not only abortion, but the handling of embryos and end-of-life decisions for elderly people and their families, she said.

“Families don’t always agree,” Dahl said, and decisions made to turn off ventilators or eschew radical surgery for critically ill people now could become not only “malpractice cases but criminal cases.”