December 10, 2023

A Winnipeg-based women’s health clinic is speaking out about stricter abortion laws coming to Manitoba’s U.S. neighbour.

Women’s Health Clinic (WHC) executive director Kemlin Nembhard said North Dakota’s freshly inked legislation that bans the procedure throughout pregnancy, with few exceptions up to six weeks’ gestation, is worrying on many levels.

“Most people don’t even know they’re pregnant before six weeks, and so banning something at six weeks actually restricts it further than it seems,” she told CTV News Winnipeg in a phone interview.

In the first six weeks, abortion would be allowed in North Dakota only in cases of rape, incest or medical emergency, such as ectopic pregnancy.

The new laws come in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year to overturn the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. The claw back triggered multiple state laws banning or restricting the procedure altogether.

“This bill clarifies and refines existing state law … and reaffirms North Dakota as a pro-life state,” Republican Gov. Doug Burgum said in a statement.

Burgum signed the legislation into law on Monday.

It is intended to take effect immediately, but last month, the state’s Supreme Court ruled a previous ban is to remain blocked while a lawsuit over its constitutionality proceeds.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum speaks at the state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D., April 10, 2020. (Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP, File)

Nembhard said WHC will be open to anybody who needs access to abortion care, regardless of where they live.

“This is actually going to be most felt by people who don’t have means, who can’t afford to travel to another state or another country, which Canada is, to seek care,” she said.

She notes the clinic has offered care to people from the U.S. for years, as well as folks from other provinces who don’t have abortion access in their communities.

Meantime, North Dakota no longer has any abortion clinics of its own. The state’s only facility shut down in Fargo last summer and moved to Moorhead, Minnesota where abortion is legal.

Nembhard said now is the time for Manitobans to be vocal about the importance of access to abortion in our province. She is calling on folks talk to their MPs and MLAs to ensure similar laws don’t return to Canada.

“We stopped talking to our politicians about it. We stopped making it really clear that this is a priority for us, and that this is basic health care and should just be available,” she said.

“It’s in that silence that things like this happen, and so we need to make sure that we are not silent.”

CTV News Winnipeg reached out to Gov. Burgum for comment, but did not receive a response.

– With files from the Associated Press


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