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Planned Parenthood To Step In If North Dakota Clinic Closes

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Planned Parenthood said Monday it will offer abortion services at its clinic in Moorhead, Minnesota, if North Dakota's only abortion clinic does not quickly relocate from Fargo should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade.

Planned Parenthood said it expected Red River Women's Clinic, a private clinic not affiliated with it, to make the short move across the river by July 1, if necessary.

"However, if that is not the case, Planned Parenthood will begin offering abortions at our Moorhead facility so that women in the region have no interruption in services," said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States.

The Red River Women's Clinic has long operated as the only abortion provider in the state. Owner Tammi Kromenaker has said she would cross over to Moorhead if forced to do so, but told The Associated Press in recent interviews that she has been too busy to explore details of such a move.

Kromenaker said Monday "there are too many unknowns to confirm a specific date" for relocation.

"We plan to continue to provide our unique and excellent brand of abortion care in the region and will work tirelessly to ensure there is no disruption in services," Kromenaker said. "We are here to stay."

A leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court suggests that a majority of justices support overturning the 1973 Roe vs Wade decision legalizing abortion. Such a move would trigger a law in North Dakota making abortion illegal, giving Kromenaker 30 days to close.

The nearest clinics to the Fargo-Moorhead are both about 240 miles (386.24 kilometers) away, in Minneapolis and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, though the Sioux Falls clinic would also shut down if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Moving to Moorhead, part of a metro area with Fargo that comprises about 250,000 people, likely would not be difficult for Kromenaker's clinic.

Brenda Huston, Moorhead's city planner and zoning administrator, said there's plenty of commercial and mixed-use space available in areas already zoned for medical facilities and a building permit for a new or remodeled abortion clinic would be a formality.

Moorhead Mayor Shelly Carlson all but endorsed the move.

"I cannot speak to the thoughts of Moorhead residents as a whole, but overall Moorhead is a welcoming community that embraces and respects diversity of thought," Carlson said. "We know that we all do not and will not think alike on every issue, but for the most part our citizens strive to exist as one community."

A spokesman for Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life declined to comment when asked whether the group would try to discourage or stop the move.

Kromenaker, 50, who began working at an abortion clinic while she was in college, was named director of the Red River facility when it opened in 1998 and bought the clinic in 2016. Patients come mostly from North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota.

In an interview with AP last week, Kromenaker said she was unsure how she would fund relocation, though she said she would welcome donations.

In North Dakota, many donors seeking to support abortion access give to the nonprofit North Dakota WIN Abortion Access Fund, with the money intended to help pay for abortions, transportation and aftercare, including tests and birth control prescriptions.

Destini Spaeth, the volunteer leader of the WIN Fund, said donations have quadrupled since the draft opinion was publicized. Spaeth said the WIN Fund has not done any fundraising for a new clinic but the group is open to that discussion.

Ken Koehler, of West Fargo, a regular protester outside the clinic in downtown Fargo, said if the clinic moves, he and his fellow demonstrators will follow it.

"I think we'll still be out," Koehler said.

(© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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