Confusion Over N.D. Abortion Restrictions Likely Driving Women to Other States

December 20, 2013 — The number of abortions at North Dakota's sole abortion clinic has dropped by nearly 15% over the past year, which the facility's director attributes in part to confusion over new abortion restrictions in the state, the AP/ABC News reports.

Red River Women's Clinic Director Tammi Kromenaker said the clinic is expected to end the year having provided about 1,125 abortions, compared with 1,330 procedures in 2012. According to state Health Department data, the clinic has performed an average of 1,300 abortions annually for the past 10 years.

A physician at the clinic, who also works at clinics in South Dakota and Minnesota, said North Dakota women are seeking abortions across state lines because they mistakenly believe the procedure was outlawed in the state, Kromenaker said. "We're definitely hearing from women that they thought we were closed and that abortion is illegal," Kromenaker said, adding, "Abortion is still legal in the state of North Dakota and [the clinic is] still here."

Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota spokesperson Connie Lewis said that while clinics in the states do not yet have figures on how many women might have traveled across state lines to have abortions, she "absolutely believe[s] that it's happening."

Lewis compared the situation to that in South Dakota a few years ago, when the state passed stringent abortion restrictions that ultimately were defeated. "It certainly mirrors the experience we had in South Dakota. It was a significant drop off and we did hear from people who said they weren't sure we were open," she said.

However, state Rep. Bette Grande (R), an abortion-rights opponent, said the drop in the number of abortions in the state is a positive development and that the decline stems from women becoming better educated on the issue, not the restrictions. She added that many women have emailed her in recent months saying they had decided against abortion because of debate over the issue in the state.

"Women are changing their hearts and minds," she said, adding, "More women have thought through the process and said, 'This is not what I want to do.'"

Kromenaker disagreed, saying, "I don't think women's circumstances and the reason they come to us have changed" (MacPherson, AP/ABC News, 12/19).