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Capitol abortion rights rallies draw large crowds, and counter-protests

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Dean Holzer, left, an elder with Capitol Heights Baptist Church in Bismarck, speaks on an anti-abortion perspective during an abortion-rights rally on the state Capitol grounds Sunday afternoon. Standing in front of Holzer, from left, are Siri Armitage, of Fargo, and Stephanie Hammes and Heather Hammes, both of Bismarck. Standing at right is Mark Huntington, also with Capitol Heights Baptist Church.

Dozens of people gathered at the state Capitol in Bismarck over the weekend to join others around the country rallying for abortion rights.

The "Bans Off Our Bodies" rallies came in the wake of a leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion that portends to strike down abortion rights rendered in the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. They also came just days after the U.S. Senate fell short in an effort toward enshrining Roe v. Wade abortion access as federal law, blocked by a Republican filibuster.

"We are here because these types of protests are happening all over the country," said Heather Hammes, who estimated the size of the Capitol group at 100 people from across the state on Sunday. A rally at the Capitol on Saturday drew a similar crowd.

Members of Capitol Heights Baptist Church attended to counter protest. There were some heated exchanges between the two sides.

"(Highway Patrol) personnel were present and spoke with individuals at the demonstration to ensure things stayed civil," Patrol spokesman Sgt. Wade Kadrmas said. "No arrests were made."

The Patrol is in charge of security on the Capitol grounds.

Rallies also were held in Minot, Grand Forks and Fargo. Groups involved included ACLU North Dakota, ERA Now, North Dakota WIN Fund, North Dakota Women’s Network, Planned Parenthood North Central States, Prairie Action ND and the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, North Dakota’s only abortion provider.

North Dakota is one of about a dozen states that have laws that would come into force if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. The 2007 North Dakota law makes it a felony to perform an abortion unless necessary to prevent the woman’s death, or in cases of rape or incest. Violations would be punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

North Dakota recorded 1,171 abortions in 2020, according to the latest figures available from the state Health Department. The total includes 833 North Dakota residents and 338 women from other states, particularly Minnesota and South Dakota, who came to North Dakota for the procedure.

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