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Martina Greywind

The abortion debate often gets cleanly split into two camps: pro-life and pro-choice. However, things aren’t always clear cut. In 1992 an abortion case from North Dakota received national attention, including an article appearing in the New York Times on this date.

It all started when Martina Greywind, a 28-year-old woman from Fargo was arrested on for inhaling paint fumes. It was soon discovered she was pregnant, inhaling fumes in part to induce a miscarriage. She had expressed desire for an abortion, but could not afford one. Subsequently, she was charged with reckless endangerment to a fetus, and on February 10, without any legal assistance, she pleaded guilty. Later, an attorney took her case and she withdrew the plea.

A pro-life group called The Lambs of Christ began talking to Greywind while she was in jail, trying to convince her not to have an abortion. They offered her food, shelter, medical care and money if she would have the baby. They said they had five couples willing to adopt. They paid for her bail, but nine hours after release, she was arrested again for sniffing paint. She pleaded guilty and was sent to the state mental hospital. The State’s Attorney ordered that she complete 30 days there or do the time in jail, but a judge ruled she could be released for a “medical and/or psychological appointment.” 

That created an opportunity for the abortion. The Lambs of Christ renewed their efforts to prevent the procedure, such as trying to make Greywind’s brother her legal guardian. But on February 22 she was driven to the Fargo Women’s Health Clinic where the doctor confirmed Martina Greywind’s desire to have an abortion. The procedure took place even as a growing circle of protestors gathered outside the clinic.

April 10, the prosecutor dropped the reckless endangerment charges, saying it was “no longer worth the time or expense to prosecute her.” The Lambs of Christ intended to sue North Dakota, saying the state pressured Greywind to get the abortion in order to have charges dropped, but that argument eventually burned itself out as well.

The case sits as an example of how a person can be unwillingly thrown into the middle of a hotly contested issue – an issue that remains very much alive 30 years later.

Dakota Datebook written by Lucid Thomas


“Chapter 11.” This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor, by Susan Wicklund and Alan S. Kesselheim, PublicAffairs, 2009, pp. 186–190.




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