What Choice?

Abortion-rights activists won an epic victory in Roe v. Wade. They've been losing ever since

  • Jamie Chung for TIME

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    Around her workspace at Red River, Kromenaker has tacked up photographs of her daughter and phone numbers for the Fargo police department and a security hotline operated by the National Abortion Federation. In the filing cabinet behind her desk, she keeps a green folder full of mail from pro-life activists. The correspondence ranges from vaguely threatening notes to prayers on behalf of Kromenaker, the doctors who work at Red River and their patients. Kromenaker is proud and outspoken about her work, but she takes different routes to work every day to avoid falling into a routine that might make her a target for pro-life zealots. (Abortion doctor George Tiller was at his regular Sunday church service when he was shot and killed by a pro-life activist in 2009.) "Even if I'm at Target looking at clothes, I never let my guard down," she says. It might seem like paranoia to be so vigilant, but in the late 1990s, Kromenaker testified at the trial of a man accused of trying to start a fire at a clinic where she worked before Red River.

    In 2011, Kromenaker testified again, this time at a committee hearing in the North Dakota state senate, which was considering a bill passed by the house that sought to ban medication-induced abortions, among other provisions. Despite Kromenaker's testimony and the efforts of pro-choice activists in North Dakota, the bill passed the state senate 42 to 5 and was signed into law on April 18, 2011. (Red River is suing to overturn the law, which a judge has blocked from going into effect.)

    In November, feminists celebrated the defeat of U.S. Senate candidates Todd Akin of Missouri, who said a woman's body can resist a pregnancy in the case of "legitimate rape," and Richard Mourdock of Indiana, who said pregnancies conceived in rape are "intended" by God. Even before Election Day, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, said, "This past year and a half has been a remarkable period of unifying women and men and a whole new generation of folks who understand that none of these rights or access can be taken for granted."

    Yet the candidate who beat Mourdock, Democrat Joe Donnelly, is also pro-life and believes abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape or incest or to protect the life of the mother. Voters in Indiana also elected conservative Republican Representative Mike Pence as the new governor. Pence has been introducing legislation since 2007 to eliminate federal funding for women's-health clinics that provide abortions, including a GOP House effort to defund Planned Parenthood in 2011. And in North Dakota, which has a Republican governor and legislature, Kromenaker is girding for new legislation she expects to be introduced that would grant fetuses "personhood" status and directly challenge the constitutional basis for Roe v. Wade.

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