North Dakota Clinic Is on Front Lines of Abortion-Rights Battle
Unless pending legal challenges lead the courts to intervene, clinic officials say, the Fargo clinic will be forced to close next month, leaving a more than 800-mile swath of the upper Plains without an abortion provider.
In recent weeks, a nationwide push by conservative Republicans to crack down on abortion at the state level has focused on a legislative drama in Texas, where a filibustering Democratic senator and abortion-rights protesters temporarily delayed lawmakers from passing restrictions that could force the closure of all but five of that state’s 42 abortion clinics.
Yet if any place symbolizes the impact of the strategy conservatives hope will lead to legal challenges that compel the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the abortion issue, it is the clinic on First Avenue North in Fargo.
Doctors there perform 1,200 to 1,300 abortions a year on women who sometimes have traveled for hours through the state’s brutal winter weather.
They include women like Shanna Labrensz-Smith, a mother of two children, who said she drove four hours one-way from Minot to get an abortion at the clinic in 2005 after she became pregnant during an extramarital affair.
“If I hadn’t been in that position, maybe I wouldn’t care as much” about the new limits, she said. “As a former patient, this is very upsetting. They are taking our rights away.”