Tammi Kromenaker was keeping a close eye on the SCOTUS blog Friday morning at North Dakota's only abortion provider when the U.S. Supreme Court released its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
When the news came, the director of the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo and two staff members started to cry.
Not 30 seconds later, the phone rang. When Kromenaker answered, it was a patient wanting to make an appointment for an abortion: a young mother with an infant who didn't feel prepared to have another child.
"Here's this group of people in Washington, D.C., along with this group of people in North Dakota who put the trigger ban in place, and they don't know the reality of people's lives who need this," Kromenaker said. "We're getting the most devastating news ever, and a person literally calls and says, 'I need an abortion, I have a kid and can't handle another one, I just moved here — do you guys do that there?' … I had to pull myself together and make her appointment."
Kromenaker is currently scrambling to move her independent abortion provider operations across the Red River to Moorhead. North Dakota is one of 13 states with a trigger ban, meaning abortion will become illegal there a month after Roe v. Wade being overturned. Minnesota has no such ban.
She already has a location. She plans to have the new clinic open by the time abortion services are illegal in North Dakota so there will be no interruption in services for women in the area seeking abortions.
The clinic has been operating in Fargo for nearly a quarter-century and serves all of North Dakota, part of South Dakota and northwest Minnesota. While the private clinic also provides pregnancy testing, birth control and testing for sexually transmitted infections, it is primarily an abortion provider.
According to state data, the clinic performed 1,171 abortions in 2020. In the majority of those, patients listed North Dakota as their state of residence, but 276 of those patients resided in Minnesota.
Though North Dakota law now allows abortion up to 20 weeks of pregnancy, the Fargo clinic currently provides abortions up to 16 weeks and 6 days, because of the logistics of staffing the clinic with out-of-town doctors. That limit likely won't change if the clinic moves to Moorhead, Kromenaker said.
As the emotions of the day settled in, Kromenaker said she worries about how abortion opponents will act in the coming days: "They're feeling a sense of victory they've never felt before. They may feel emboldened. It's not business as usual."
She feels confident that the decision will awaken a sleeping giant of more passive supporters of abortion rights. But people who oppose abortion but haven't been vocal or active about it will also be activated, she believes. Abortion opponents will be held under scrutiny like never before, as society debates early childhood education and paid family leave for pregnancies that can no longer be aborted.
"Vote in the next election like abortion is the most important thing," she said. "I think in 10 years we're going to turn this ship around. … I have hope this will all be very different in 10 years, and we'll have federal protections for abortion. But we need people's help right now."
Someone had set up a GoFundMe account for Red River Women's Clinic the day before the ruling. As Kromenaker spoke early Friday afternoon, the account surpassed $100,000 in donations. By late afternoon, it was approaching $200,000.