In July 2018, I shared in “Sidewalk Stories” details of the history of the Kopelman building downtown Fargo, which now houses the only abortion facility in North Dakota.
I’d stumbled upon its history after my curiosity was piqued, following several years of praying next to the structure which, in so many ways, seemed a house of hell. Admittedly, these are strong words, but how else should we describe a place where small human beings are brought to their deaths?
Indeed, when I learned of the history, it left me cold. I kept the information tucked within for a few years, knowing that in time, I would share it with others. The history of a place matters after all and especially the history of a construct that has become a source of atrocity.
Recently, a friend prompted me to revive that article, mentioning that two new, young prayer advocates had expressed curiosity about the building. Innately, we humans wonder about such things, and I was glad to provide some context. Interestingly, the very day I set about finding that piece, another connected to it came onto my horizon.
The Forum article by Tracy Briggs, “Fargo Orthodox Jewish Community Strives to Bring Back the Ritual Bath,” dated Feb. 5, 2021, tells of the “mikvah,” or plunge bath, an ancient custom of Jews. This ritual of cleansing for women following menstruation or childbirth is meant to be an act of purification before resuming marital relations.
The Kopelman building, which now houses our state’s only remaining abortion facility—initially provided for this important ritual. After its original owner, Mr. Jacob Kopelman, a Jewish wig maker, died, his wife, Lena, assumed ownership. Pregnant with her sixth child, she needed an income to support her family, so she reopened the store as Kopelman’s Beauty Shop.
In the basement of the store, Lena ran a mikvah and, as mentioned in my previous article, “For $1 a dip, Lena provided towels, water and soap.” After her death in 1947, her daughter Rose took over, and the building became a men’s formal-wear store. In 1984, it was renovated into a restaurant, then sat vacant from 1996 to 2000. At that point, it became the abortion facility we know it as today.
Ever since learning the building’s origins, especially of the mikvah, that fact has been with me, especially on Wednesdays, when abortions happen there. Knowing the building, once used to cleanse and purify women who’d recently given birth, is now being purposed for the death of children and demoralization of women, has been impossible to shake.
This brings me to the building’s current name, which I rarely print here: Red River Women’s Clinic. Though that is in fact the official name now of the Kopelman building, I don’t consider it a clinic. Clinics heal and bring life, not death. This is part of the ongoing lie perpetuated by the abortion industry, much like the name, “Planned Parenthood.” I can think of no better contradiction than that named paired with its true mission.
But maybe the first part of the Kopelman building’s newest name is truthful. “Red River.” I think about the river that flows, and sometimes rages, just blocks from the facility, and what I’ve been hearing repeatedly as I work through the Old Testament through the “Bible in a Year” with Father Mike Schmitz: “The life is in the blood.” There are far things more naturally connected with the color red than blood. “The life is in the blood.” And so is death.
Here in this building, the blood of life was once washed away as an imperative of God’s Old Testament laws—as a sign of fidelity to our Lord. Now in this building, the blood of life has become a sign of death. The Red River in this case symbolizes, to me, a river of blood flowing out of mothers and babies.
Some might cringe at this, and I don’t blame you. I do not write these words lightly. But in a world of deception, it’s important to report the truth, and this is the truth of what is happening in our city every week. We need to confront it repeatedly to remember the great need to pray for the many who have died here, whether in body or soul, as well as for the confused souls who weekly abet these deeds.
Driving by the Kopelman building, one can hardly escape seeing the name, boldly painted in purple on its front. The next time you do, recall its past and remember its present, and pray with fervency this building will soon be reclaimed by the blood of life, for God’s glory.
[Note: I write about my experiences on the sidewalk Downtown Fargo on Wednesday, the day abortions happen at our state’s only abortion facility, for New Earth magazine — the official news publication of the Fargo Diocese. I hope you find “Sidewalk Stories” helpful in understanding the truth about abortion and how it plays out tragically each week here in Fargo, N.D. The preceding ran in New Earth’s March 2021 issue.]