Red River Women’s Clinic requests volunteer escorts

The Red River Women’s Clinic is looking for volunteers to escort patients during the 40 Days for Life campaign. Photo courtesy of the Red River Women’s Clinic.

One block off Broadway on First Ave. N. in Fargo is the Red River Women’s Clinic. The unassuming white building is home to the only abortion service provider in the state of North Dakota. Every autumn, the building is easily spotted as it is targeted by an international pro-life campaign.

40 Days for Life will gather outside of the clinic to pray, fast, and hold peaceful vigil from 6:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m from Sept. 27 to Nov. 5 as part of their global mission to end abortions. In order to protect their patients, the RRWC seeks volunteers from the Fargo-Moorhead community to escort their patients on Wednesdays, the only day of the week that they provide abortions.

“We have asked the community to provide a volunteer core of escorts,” said Tammi Kromenaker, the clinic’s director since its opening on July 31, 1998. “You don’t have to necessarily be pro-choice…we just want our community to show that people who are against abortion aren’t the only people in the community.”

The RRWC advocates for and provides women’s reproductive health services and sees patients from North Dakota, South Dakota and Northwest Minnesota each year. The clinic sees the majority of their patients on Wednesdays, as 95 percent of the clinic’s provided services are attributed to abortions. Kromenaker said that the RRWC provides birth control options as well. The clinic is not Title X funded, and therefore cannot directly dispense contraceptive pills or patches, but the staff can make referrals and write prescriptions for patients upon request. Above all, the RRWC staff strives to provide their patients safe, compassionate, and respectful care.

As the only abortion provider in North Dakota, the RRWC is subject to frequent and large protests by pro-life activists and organizations, but Kromenaker shared that the need for escorts was not crucial until 2007. To protect their patients, the RRWC reached out to the community for assistance.

2009 Concordia graduate Kera Beskin was one of the first volunteer escorts to respond. Beskin said she had witnessed protesters acting and speaking inappropriately toward the patients entering the RRWC. She called Kromenaker and asked how she could help the community. The RRWC had just launched the escorting program. Beskin became an avid volunteer for the remainder of her college career and is credited for the original design of the escort vests, on which she used stencils to spray paint the letters “RRWC” and “clinic escort”.

“I saw a problem in my community and thought, ‘This needs to stop and I want to do something about it,’” Beskin said. “It was so gratifying to call someone and immediately have an action. That doesn’t always happen.”

Beskin is not the only Cobber to volunteer at the RRWC. Many students at Concordia are motivated to volunteer around the community, among them sophomore Emily Mastin. A group of students in her women’s and gender studies course went to the RRWC as a part of their activism project, for which they participated in an escort training session and volunteered on a Wednesday.

“The training was pretty straight-forward,” Mastin said. “The staff told us to make it a peaceful place and if a protester got really close, you had to ignore them.”

The RRWC holds escort training quarterly and those dates are most easily found through their Facebook page. Kromenaker explained that it is not mandatory to attend an escort training session to become an escort. She encourages members of the community to reach out via email or phone for information about agreement forms and the escort manual.

The most crucial element of escort training, according to Kromenaker, is teaching escorts to not engage with the protesters. The job of an escort is to provide a safe environment for the patients as they enter the clinic.

“We have a non-engagement policy,” Kromenaker said. “This is not an opportunity to debate folks. If a volunteer starts interacting with the protesters, the lead escorter will ask them to leave.”

As 40 Days for Life fast approaches, the demand for escort volunteers will rise. Kromenaker encourages members of all ages to escort at the RRWC. Students, mothers, grandparents and children have participated, and Kromenaker hopes that the RRWC continues to see high numbers of volunteers.

“It’s a really positive experience,” Kromenaker said. “A lot of people might be scared and think it’s too confrontational … but you are there to let the community and patients know that when they see those blue vests, they know that these are folks who support the clinic and the women seeking services here.”

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Mariah Norell

Mariah is a junior double majoring in Music and Global Studies, with a concentration in development studies. She enjoys singing in the Concordia Choir, being involved in the theatre department, traveling, and spending time in nature. This is her second semester on the Concordian staff.

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2 Comments

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    Sad to see another example of a school with Christian founders moving away from its roots and promoting abortion. This article also shows a complete lack of journalistic integrity. All six statements quoted are pro-RRWC. Loaded words claim that a peaceful prayer vigil is “targeting” others and creating the need to “protect” women. How in the world did this slanted, misleading and misguided article end up in the Variety section instead of the Opinions section?

    1. Avatar

      Mariah,
      Your sources are not being honest. The pro-life people on the sidewalk are peaceful and look to offer resources, love and healing to women in need. Some of the pro-choice escorts are vulgar and yell above us when we are trying to communicate message of help and hope to women about to make the irreversible decision to vacuum out their baby (up to 16 weeks for $1,025) and end its only chance at life in the world.

      There certainly is not or ever has been a physical danger (not including the violence they receive once they enter RRWC) to the women approaching the clinic. The escorts are used by the abortionist to prevent pro-life people from communicating our truthful message that includes real help for their seemingly impossible and scary situation.

      Those that are allowed to hear us are ever thankful God’s message was permitted to be communicated. Religion and beliefs aside, what happens in the RRWC building still is cruel, inhumane and taking of an innocent life.

      For your next article, please consider looking into the services FirstChoice Clinic provides to help women suffering in a crisis pregnancy. Someday hopefully your peers at Concordia will realize being escorts to lead women to literally their baby’s slaughter (and away from the polite and soft-spoken voices of people that truly care for them and their baby) is not something your college should be proud of.

      Thank you for your time

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