Sarah Haeder, a nurse at North Dakota’s lone remaining abortion clinic, the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, is no stranger to the pro-life protests that occur regularly outside the clinic’s doors. In fact, she revealed in an interview with reporter Catie Beck for NBC’s Left Field, she used to be one of the protestors herself.
“I know what it’s like to come from this area and be told that the choice is wrong,” said Haeder, reflecting on her childhood. “My grandma and grandpa would travel the country and protest outside of all kinds of abortion clinics. The times that I came to Fargo, we just had the red tape over our mouth that said, ‘Life.’ We just had to stand there, small little children … We were taught that abortion is murder and that the nurses and doctors who perform them are murderers.”
“I knew that I loved my grandma,” Haeder added when asked how she felt as a child being forced to tag along on her grandparents’ abortion protest tours. “I knew that I respected her, so of course I thought I was doing the right thing. When we went to Wichita that was the last time that I protested. It was my sophomore year of high school, and that was where Dr. Tiller works. He was one of the late-term abortion doctors … he was actually murdered in 2009 in his church. So we were there protesting and I think it was at that point that I first started to question things. Because it was so crazy, why is this so crazy and they’re being so horrible to these women. But I still didn’t think it was wrong.”
Raised in a large religious family — Haeder has 80 cousins on her mother’s side alone — the now-pro-choice advocate said that it wasn’t until she had to help a friend through an abortion in college that she really began to re-evaluate her moral stance.
“That was the first time I really thought about what it meant to be a woman. About what it meant to have a choice,” she recalled. In her mid-20s, Haeger was taking birth control when she nonetheless became pregnant herself. So she drove to the Red River Women’s Clinic, where she obtained an abortion with “no regrets.” Afterwards, she knew that it was time for her to get involved in the abortion issue once more.
“I immediately wanted to know how I could work here,” she said. “I quit my full time job so I could work one day a week at the clinic … I remember sitting on panels at church camp, telling everyone: ‘You don’t deserve choice.’ Now here I am, helping them to make the decision.”
There are 1,200 state laws limiting abortion in North Dakota, including a “trigger law” that would ban abortion outright should Roe. v. Wade be overturned. Following the successful appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, conservatives now hold a decisive majority that many fear could overturn the landmark 1973 ruling. But while abortion rights face an uncertain future, Haeger says that women’s need for abortions remains constant — whether or not the procedure is legal.
“I feel like our movement is resilient,” Haeger said. “Women are still going to have abortions. We just have to decide whether America is going to continue to care and love and respect us by allowing abortion to be safe and accessible.”
Watch Haeger’s interview with NBC’s Left Field below.