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Report: ND Fails to Provide Access to Reproductive Health Care

In North Dakota, 73 percent of women live in counties that don't have an abortion provider. (Sarah Mirk/Flickr)
In North Dakota, 73 percent of women live in counties that don't have an abortion provider. (Sarah Mirk/Flickr)
February 23, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. – North Dakota is one of 18 states to get a failing grade in The Population Institute's new national report card on reproductive health and rights.

The report card tracks multiple health indicators, including access to family planning and abortion services. In 2017, the nation as a whole slipped from a 'D' to a 'D-minus' because of tightened state and federal policies that limit access to contraceptive and other health care services.

Jennie Wetter, the Population Institute’s director of public policy, says despite the falling grades, there is good news to report.

"Right now across the U.S., you have the lowest teen pregnancy rate we've ever seen,” she points out. “It's still higher than most other developed countries, but it is at a historic low, and the unintended pregnancy rate is at a 30 year low. This is where we have seen states make real progress."

Wetter says North Dakota's policies requiring a 24-hour waiting period, and parental notice and consent for teens, add hurdles for women who choose to end a pregnancy.

North Dakota's so-called TRAP laws, which increase regulations on providers, also factored into the state's failing grade. Proponents say regulations – such as requiring providers to have admitting privileges at full-service hospitals – are necessary to protect patient safety.

Wetter says the regulations, which exist primarily in red states, are part of a national strategy to reduce the number of abortions by limiting the number of practitioners and facilities.

She adds the tactic is working in North Dakota, where 73 percent of women now live in a county without a clinic that provides abortions.

"But when you really look at these laws, they really are just designed to close clinics,” she asserts. “Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures anyone can have. So, you really are not protecting patient safety, you're just setting up a barrier of access."

The report gave North Dakota high marks for expanding Medicaid, though it notes the state did not offer access to family-planning services in the expansion.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND