GF area abortion opponents mark 40th anniversary of Roe v. WadeA few hardy souls braved sub-zero temperatures to pray and show their opposition to abortion at the federal courthouse in Grand Forks on Tuesday, the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
By: By Stephen J. Lee, Forum News Service, The Jamestown Sun
A few hardy souls braved sub-zero temperatures to pray and show their opposition to abortion at the federal courthouse in Grand Forks on Tuesday, the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
“It’s so sad,” said Ruth Holweger of Grand Forks after spending a few minutes praying and talking with a handful of fellow abortion opponents. Most would stay about 10 minutes to be replaced by others for a few minutes in the cold.
Joan Kucera held a white cross with a wreath of red roses and the number “55 million,” the estimated number of abortions since the court announced its Roe v. Wade decision on Jan. 22, 1973.
“It’s not only guns that kill our children,” Kucera said.
Arnold Braaten recited a poem he wrote about the need for Americans to stop abortions.
Like many active members of Grand Forks Right to Life, Holweger is Roman Catholic, a member of St. Mary’s parish near downtown.
She put the estimated number of abortions in the context of state populations: It is equivalent to the cumulative populations of half the states. A main source for the estimate is the Guttmacher Institute, which publishes annual abortion figures deemed accurate by both sides of the debate.
But abortion is on the decline, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The latest estimate is from 2009, when the abortion rate fell 5 percent compared to 2008, the largest one-year decline since Roe v. Wade.
The abortion rate in 2009 was 15.1 abortions per 1,000 women “of reproductive age,” or ages 15 to 44. In 2008, it was 15.9 per 1,000.
The number of U.S. abortions has been dropping since 1990, when they totaled 1.6 million, to around 1.2 million a year since 2004.
In North Dakota, an average of 1,290 abortions have been performed each year between 2007 and 2011, the latest data available, according to the state Health Department.
Dr. Susan Wicklund, who performed abortions for several years in the 1990s at the former Women’s Health Organization in Fargo, told New Yorker magazine recently that “patients are having a harder time than ever before obtaining abortion services.”
She blames a troubled economy, “abortion pills” bought over the Internet, and increasing local and state restrictions on abortion.
“Across the country, there are many more clinics that have closed and fewer physicians providing abortions,” she said. “Every year, there are more and more roadblocks for patients.”
The Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo is the only abortion provider for around 240 miles to the east and south; the nearest other providers are in Duluth, the Twin Cities and Sioux Falls, S.D. Going west, the nearest provider to Fargo is Wicklund’s clinic in Livingston, Mont., around 730 miles away by road.
As such, the Fargo clinic attracts not only patients from a wide area, but abortion opponents, who pray outside it every week on the one day abortions are performed.
Catholic Church officials especially have made a point to hold religious services outside the clinic. Each summer the bishop of Fargo leads a Eucharistic procession from St. Mary’s Cathedral to the clinic.
Samuel Aquila, the former bishop of Fargo and current archbishop of Denver, wrote in a pastoral letter Tuesday that exposure to aborted fetuses as a hospital orderly during his college years haunted him and helped lead him back to his Catholic faith.
“I witnessed the death of two small people who never had a chance to take a breath,” he wrote. “My faith was weak at the time. But I knew by reason, and by what I saw, that a human life was destroyed. My conscience awakened to the truth of the dignity of the human being from the moment of conception. I became pro-life and eventually returned to my faith.”
The pastoral letter, Aquila’s first since leaving Fargo in May, was posted on the Denver Archdiocese’s website Tuesday.
Local Catholic churches are also marking the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade with a tradition nearly as old. On Tuesday, dozens of young people from the Fargo and Crookston dioceses, including many from Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, departed for Washington to take part in the March for Life on the Mall Friday.
Holweger has driven to Fargo several times to pray at the clinic and has marked Jan. 22 each year by standing at the federal court house in Grand Forks.
She planned to attend a Right to Life dinner and program Tuesday evening in St. Michael’s Catholic Church.
“I don’t lose heart,” she said. “God answers prayer in His time and in His way. I trust in God, I will not fear.”