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Published January 04, 2013, 11:30 PM

North Dakota clinic featured in Time magazine

North Dakota among 4 states with only one surgical-abortion clinic
FARGO – North Dakota’s only abortion provider will make national news this week.

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

FARGO – North Dakota’s only abortion provider will make national news this week.

New York-based reporter Kate Pickert spent a day at the Red River Women’s Clinic here with director Tammi Kromenaker for her Jan. 14 Time magazine cover story, “What Choice?”

Using the clinic as an example, the story explores the changing landscape of the “pro-choice” – a term that’s being replaced with the broader “reproductive justice” – movement to mark the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade coming up in a couple of weeks.

North Dakota is one of four states that has only one surgical-abortion clinic in operation, but Kromenaker says that’s because the population doesn’t support more than one.

“There’s only been one clinic for a long, long, long time,” she says.

When Time’s Pickert first contacted Kromenaker in August, Pickert said she felt like Mississippi, one of the other states with only one clinic, and the South had already been well covered.

Kromenaker has headed the independent Red River Women’s Clinic since it opened in downtown Fargo 15 years ago.

“She has spent her entire adult life providing abortion services and is among hundreds of clinic directors across the U.S. navigating an ever-increasing number of state-imposed abortion regulations,” Pickert writes.

Though hesitant at first to put her name and face in a national publication, Kromenaker hopes openness with the media will help reduce the stigma and secrecy surrounding abortion, those who provide it, and those who seek it.

“I told her that she would have full access,” Kromenaker says of the reporter. A photographer was given the same access when he visited in October.

In her story, Pickert provides a comprehensive look at the legislative and generational challenges facing abortion-rights activists.

“In many ways, the fight to preserve access to abortion is even more daunting than the fight to legalize it 40 years ago. In a dynamic democracy like America, defending the status quo is always harder than fighting to change it,” she writes.

Part of the problem lies in the message.

The vast majority of abortion-care patients here and nationwide are between the ages of 19 and 24, and for anyone under 40, abortion has always been a constitutionally protected right.

“My entire life, abortion’s been available,” says Kromenaker, who turns 41 later this month.

As a result, pre-Roe stories of back-alley abortions don’t resonate as well with Gen-X and Gen-Y’ers as they did with women in the 1960s and ’70s.

“The young women are saying, ‘You need to change your messages,’ ” she says, adding, “We’re struggling to find those messages that do resonate.”

The Time story explains how generational differences have been a problem for the movement on the national level, but Kromenaker says her clinic and staff provide an example of a successful transition.

“If abortion-rights activists don’t come together to adapt to shifting public opinion on the issue of reproductive rights, abortion access in America will almost certainly continue to erode,” Pickert writes.

Kromenaker says the article is accurate and a good portrayal of herself, the physician who was interviewed, the clinic and the reproductive rights movement.

“I think the article itself is pretty spot on from what I’ve heard and been exposed to in the last few years about the pro-choice movement,” she says.

“What Choice?” became available to Time subscribers online starting Thursday and should start hitting local newsstands this weekend, depending on distribution.


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Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590

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