To: House Human Services Committee
Subject: SB 2305 - Physician Privileges
Date: March 13, 2013

The North Dakota Catholic Conference supports Senate Bill 2305 to enhance the health and safety of women having abortions. We lament that taking the life of an unborn child is still legal in this country, but we have consistently held that until such time as the law protects all human life, government has an obligation to protect and advance the legitimate health interests of women receiving abortions. Their lives are just as precious as those destroyed in the act of abortion.

The courts have agreed that the state has a legitimate interest in ensuring the maximum level of safety for the woman receiving an abortion.(1) This interest exists no matter when during the pregnancy the abortion occurs.(2)

No matter what gloss abortion proponents put on it, abortion is an invasive, surgical procedure that can lead to numerous and serious (both short- and long-term) medical complications. Our own North Dakota Department of Health notes that potential complications for abortion include, among others, bleeding, hemorrhage, infection, uterine perforation, uterine scarring, blood clots, cervical tears, incomplete abortion (retained tissue), reactions to anesthesia, and even death.(3) The risks are greater with surgical abortions and for second trimester abortions.

Add to this the fact that the abortion clinic in Fargo uses itinerant out-of-state physicians to perform a relatively high volume of surgical abortions during a short period of time, and the state has more than sufficient justification for protecting women’s lives by the enacting the modest requirement that the physician have admitting privileges at a local hospital.(4) It is the least we can do.

Opponents of these sensible expectations have claimed that SB 2305 will shut down the abortion center. Senate Bill 2305 will not shut down the clinic. If the clinic chooses to close because of its unwillingness to comply with this minimal requirement, the closure would be solely due to its own decision and not the passage of this bill.

Some have also claimed that SB 2305 would interfere with a hospital’s policy for granting privileges. It would not. Nothing in SB 2305 requires a hospital to change any of its policies. Nor would SB 2305 infringe upon the independent judgment of a physician employed by a hospital.(5)

Senate Bill 2305 is not about abortion. It is about protecting the women who have abortions.

We urge a Do Pass recommendation on SB 2305.

1 Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 150 (1973); Akron v. Akron Ctr. for Reproductive Health, Inc., 462 U.S. 416, 428-29 (1983).
2 Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 847 (1992).
3 Information About Pregnancy and Abortion, North Dakota Department of Health, November 2012.
4 For a breakdown of the number of abortions the Red River Women’s Clinic performs per day, see attachment.
5 That is already protected by North Dakota Century Code section 43-17-42.

How many abortions does the Red River Women’s Clinic perform in a single day?

In 2011, the last year for which records are available, the clinic performed 1247 abortions.

It is generally accepted that the clinic does abortions only once a week, although they are closed some weeks during the year. Assuming, therefore, it performed abortions on at least 50 days last year, that would mean that it performed an average of 25 abortions per day. This is consistent, though more precise, than clinic director Tammi Kromenaker’s own claim that the clinic “sees approximately 25 patients per week.”

According to Kromenaker, approximately 80% of the abortions are surgical.
3 That would mean at least 20 a day are surgical abortions.

The clinic’s website posts hours as between 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If those are the actual hours, this equates to 3.1 abortions per hour, at least 2.5 of which are surgical.

How does this compare to other abortion facilities? According to one breakdown on abortions based on data from the Guttmacher Institute for 2008, the Red River Women’s Clinic would have among the highest volume of abortions per day in the nation. It estimated that the highest volume abortion clinics - which represent less than four percent of the abortion clinics in the country - perform approximately 25 abortions per day.

2 Bismarck Tribune, February 16, 2013.
3 Affidavit of Tammi Kromenaker in Support of Motion for Temporary Injunction, MKB Management vs. Birch Burdick, et al., East Central Judicial District, Case No. 09-2011-CV-02205.
4 The Throughput of Abortion Providers, based on data from Jones, Rachel K. and Kooistra, Kathryn. Guttmacher Institute. Abortion Incidence and Access to Services in the United States, 2008. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. Volume 43, Issue 1. 10 January 2011.