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5 things to know today: Abortion protestors, Money moves, Decision condemned, Facing expulsion, West Nile

A select rundown of stories found on InForum.

Ken Koehler, 73, of West Fargo, holding his sign while clinic escorts for the Red River Women's Clinic wait for patients to arrive on Wednesday, June 29, 2022.jpg
Longtime anti-abortion demonstrator Ken Koehler, 73, of West Fargo, holds a sign as escorts wait for patients to arrive at the Red River Women's Clinic on Wednesday, June 29, 2022.
C.S. Hagen/The Forum
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1. Regular protesters at North Dakota's only abortion clinic say legal victory is 'bittersweet'

The weekly protest outside of the Red River Women’s Clinic on Wednesday, June 29 — the first since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision — was unusually calm.

The clinic, which has operated since 1998, is being forced to shut its doors by July 28, because the high court’s ruling triggered a North Dakota law banning abortion within 30 days if Roe was ever overturned. The clinic plans to move to Moorhead, but has not yet disclosed its new site.

On Wednesday, clinic escorts outnumbered protesters while at least four patients were led inside North Dakota’s lone abortion clinic at 512 1st Ave. N. in downtown Fargo. Journalists, including one from The New Yorker magazine, interviewed escorts and protesters, some of whom have been active since the 1980s when North Dakota had multiple abortion clinics.

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Lori Kenney traveled about 45 minutes from Audubon, Minnesota, to protest in front of the clinic. She began demonstrating in Fargo nearly three decades ago, traveling by bus to get here. And she remembered a time when people blocked clinic entrances with their vehicles.

Read more from The Forum's C.S. Hagen

2. North Dakota businessman spends over $50M on New York City, Fargo condos

The former president of Fargo-based Swanson Health Products seems to have his head in the clouds when it comes to property acquisition.

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North Dakota businessman Leland Swanson Jr. purchased the condo on the 17th floor of the RDO Building in downtown Fargo for $6.4 million.
David Samson/The Forum

Leland Swanson Jr. has purchased a second condominium unit in a 90-story skyscraper in New York City for $39.3 million, according to a city government public records website.

The building at 157 W. 57th St. in midtown Manhattan, known as One57, overlooks Central Park along what’s called “Billionaire’s Row.”

In 2014, Swanson bought his first condo in the luxury tower for $7.6 million and is still listed as owner of that condo, Unit 49B, which has more than 2,000 square feet of space.

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About six months ago, the retired North Dakota businessman spent more than five times that amount on Unit 87, advertised on real estate websites as a residence of more than 6,200 square feet with four bedrooms and 5.5 baths.

Read more from The Forum's Robin Huebner

3. Chorus of medical authorities attack abortion decision

U.S. Supreme Court
Visitors stand outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Feb. 27, 2018.
Ron Antonelli/Bloomberg

Several of the nation's leading medical and health authorities have condemned the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturns Roe v. Wade and sends the issue of abortion to the individual states.

Among the latest objections, medicine's largest member association describes the reversal of Roe as "a direct attack on the practice of medicine," and calls for American doctors to take a stand against new restrictions on abortion.

"The American Medical Association is deeply disturbed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn nearly a half century of precedent protecting patients’ right to critical reproductive health care," wrote American Medical Association president Dr. Jack Resnick Jr. in a statement released Friday, June 24.

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"This is an egregious allowance of government intrusion into the medical examination room," Resnick continued, "a direct attack on the practice of medicine and the patient-physician relationship, and a brazen violation of patients’ rights to evidence-based reproductive health services."

The day prior, the association's flagship Journal of the American Medical Association called upon doctors to "be vocal advocates against state laws that interfere with medical care."

In a June 23 editorial titled "The Impending Crisis of Access to Safe Abortion Care in the US," the journal advised clinicians in states with bans to become knowledgeable about organizations that "provide information and logistical support to people seeking care out of state," and to "communicate their commitment to helping patients obtain the care they need if they are ever faced with an unwanted pregnancy."

The editorial further advised physicians "to become informed and be prepared to respond to questions from patients regarding self-managed abortion."

Read more from Forum News Service's Paul John Scott

4. Hundreds of Minnesota National Guard members face expulsion over vaccine

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Members of the Minnesota Army National Guard Bravo Company 2-136th Infantry Regiment supporting Operation Spartan Shield arrive at old terminal of Hector International Airport on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

Hundreds of Minnesota National Guard members could be forced to leave the military for declining the COVID-19 vaccine after the Department of Defense’s Thursday, June 30, deadline to get the shot.

More than 95% of the Guard’s 13,000 members have been vaccinated against COVID-19, but holdouts remain, said Lt. Col. Kristen Augé, the Minnesota National Guard's State Public Affairs Officer. Of that group, nearly 2% requested a religious or medical exemption, while 3% have refused vaccination.

According to the percentages provided by military officials, it’s possible more than 600 members could face dismissal from the Minnesota National Guard, but leadership said it hopes to work with service members who have reservations about the vaccine.

"People are our greatest strength and the most valuable resource required to perform our mission," Augé said. “The Minnesota National Guard continues to work with service members who have reservations about the vaccination with dignity and respect."

Augé said religious exemption requests by Minnesota service members are "awaiting disposition from the departments of the Army and Air Force."

Former Minnesota Adjutant General and Army Guard director Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen said he does not plan to give up on any vaccine-refusing soldiers until they have signed paperwork to leave, according to a statement provided by Augé.

Nationally, more than 40,000 Army National Guard soldiers, about 13% of the force, have not been vaccinated for COVID-19, according to the National Guard Bureau. Around 14,000 have declined the vaccine.

Read more from Forum News Service's Alex Derosier

5. Season's 1st case of West Nile virus reported in North Dakota

Ben Prather
Ben Prather, vector control director for Cass County, sorts through a pile of collected mosquitoes Friday from the Fargo Country Club looking for Culex tarsalis, a type of mosquito known to be a carrier of West Nile virus. Jesse Trelstad / The Forum

The first human case of West Nile virus has been detected in North Dakota this season, the state Department of Health announced Wednesday, June 29.

The person diagnosed with West Nile virus lives in Richland County in southeast North Dakota and was not hospitalized.

“This is the time of year when (West Nile virus) activity increases, so it is important to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites,” Amanda Bakken, the state's West Nile virus surveillance coordinator, said in a statement. “Warmer temperatures contribute to increased risk of being bitten by an infected mosquito.”

As of Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was reporting no West Nile virus activity in Minnesota or South Dakota.

Read more

Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of "staff." Often, the "staff" byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.
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