Editor’s note. We are reprinting this story from the February 2001 issue of National Right to Life News, as part of an ongoing series that we’ve been publishing in anticipation of next week’s 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
North Dakota pro-lifers saw their efforts and their prayers bear fruit in late January when the Fargo Women’s Health Organization, one of the state’s two abortion facilities, closed after 20 years. The Red River Women’s Clinic is now the only abortion clinic in operation in North Dakota.
The Fargo Women’s Health Organization was owned by the Raleigh, North Carolina-based National Women’s Health Organization (NWHO), which operates seven other abortion facilities around the country. Susan Hill, president of NWHO, told local reporters that the decision to close was a business decision.
Hill told the Bismarck Tribune that the Fargo clinic “lagged behind all the other clinics,” and that “It’s been the hardest one to manage in terms of the distance from the home office, the inability to have local doctors working there. We’ve had to transport doctors in.”
The executive director of the North Dakota Right to Life Association (NDRL), points out the moral behind the story: “We all know that businesses close when in financial difficulty,” she told NRL News. “The culture of death is not concerned about women’s health issues; they are concerned about money.”
Based on an average cost of $296 for an abortion, the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund estimates that abortion is nearly a $400 million per year industry.
The closing of the Fargo Women’s Health Organization ends 20 years of abortion at that facility, which opened in 1981. The clinic performed abortions during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy.
Health Department figures reported in the Bismarck Tribune show that 1,345 abortions were performed in North Dakota in 1999. This is an increase of 103 over the previous year, when a second abortion facility, the Red River Women’s Clinic, opened in Fargo.
The failure of the Fargo Women’s Health Organization signifies an important triumph of the pro-life message over an abortion network that considered the 1976 founding of its clinics “a landmark event in solidifying the availability of legal abortion nationwide.”
Ironically, on the 25th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in 1998, NWHO’s president had declared: “I think we have won the abortion debate. When young women in Mississippi [the location of another NWHO abortion facility] find our clinic on the Internet, then come in for an abortion believing that it is their right to choose, the abortion rights movement has accomplished its mission. Women and men in this country will not surrender that personal choice.”
That the clinic could not stay open reflects decades of educational effort by North Dakotans committed to affirming the value of life. North Dakota boasts numerous amazing pro-life citizens, including a well-organized state Right to Life affiliate, dozens of local chapters, and one of the largest and most enthusiastic Teens for Life groups in the country. The state also has several pro-life statutes to protect women and girls from the abortion industry, including informed consent and parental consent laws.
Further, pro-life pregnancy resource centers around the state have been offering women emotional and practical help in choosing life over abortion. Pregnancy Centers Online lists 17 such centers, located in Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks, Minot, Park River, and Williston.
NDRL stresses that with the closing of the abortion facility we “now more than ever need to reach out to women facing a crisis pregnancy,” adding, “We need to reach out in practical ways to help mothers and fathers choose life for their babies.”
NDRL urges North Dakotans to support two bills before the state Senate, one of which funds an alternatives to abortion program while the other adds to the state’s informed consent law.
Already the pro-life movement has much to be thankful for in this hopeful New Year. For all of us who have worked so hard to promote the beautiful choice of life, North Dakota’s story should inspire us to persevere.
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Postscript: As of today, there remains only one abortion clinic in North Dakota.