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ROBIN HUEBNER REPORTS: Seeking neutral zone on abortion issue, Fargo nonprofit offers 'Plants for Patients'

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Monica Gelinske, director of operations for Plants for Patients, talks Thursday, Dec. 13, about the charity’s location in downtown Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor 2 / 7
Kayla Bones, left, and Emily Bosch take a ceramics class sponsored by Plants for Patients on Thursday, Dec. 13, at the Katherine Kilbourne Burgum Center for Creativity in downtown Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor 3 / 7
Monica Gelinske, director of operations for Plants for Patients, shows some of the donated pots Thursday, Dec. 13, in the charity’s location in downtown Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor 4 / 7
Cherida Even, a ceramics instructor for Plants for Patients, leads a class Thursday, Dec. 13, at the Katherine Kilbourne Burgum Center for Creativity in downtown Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor 5 / 7
Starter clippings grow Thursday, Dec. 13, at Plants for Patients' location in downtown Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor 6 / 7
A logo is printed on cards for Plants for Patients on Thursday, Dec. 13. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor 7 / 7

FARGO — People often look at abortion as a black or white issue, with no gray area.

You’re either against abortion or in favor of a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy.

But a local nonprofit group is working to establish a neutral zone on the polarizing issue, with help from a little "green."

Plants for Patients provides a green plant, housed in a handmade clay pot with a personalized note, to women who seek abortions at the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, North Dakota’s only abortion facility.

What started as a college thesis project in 2012 has become a volunteer-run nonprofit housed in the APT building, a space for local artists at 225 4th Ave. N.

Monica Gelinske, operations director for Plants for Patients, known as P4P, said the small effort has grown into one involving hundreds of plants, a class for making the clay pots and monthly gatherings to write notes of compassion to the women.

She said the group is neither pro-life nor pro-choice.

“You can have any kind of belief system you want, but we’re just basically pro-compassion, pro-love, pro-neighbor, and basically just spreading positive messages,” Gelinske said.

Warren Christensen of Fargo organizes the P4P message-writing events.

“We try to focus on the strength of the individual, try to focus on them, as much as possible, that they can feel love and support from the community,” he said.

'The loss of her child'

Christensen also serves as a volunteer patient escort outside the clinic, ensuring that women are supported on the way in.

On Wednesdays, the day abortions are performed, the women are often approached, he said, by people who try to convince them to change their mind. Sometimes, they’re "yelled at" by the protesters, he said.

“I just don’t think that’s OK,” Christensen said.

Several protesters outside the clinic on Wednesday, Dec. 12, said they didn’t think the gifts from the nonprofit group would have much of an impact on the women.

“There’s nothing they’re going to be able to say in that note to comfort her in the loss of her child,” said Thomas Reagan of rural Abercrombie, N.D.

“My thoughts always go to what has just happened, for which that plant is being given. And what just happened is an innocent human life has been taken with every abortion,” said Ken Koehler of West Fargo.

Over 3,500 women

Plants for Patients began in 2012 with Meg Roberts, then a student at North Dakota State University.

She wanted to combine her interests in art, community involvement and social activism while promoting humanitarianism.

Her thesis project turned into the formation of a nonprofit organization. It’s run by a core group of 30 or so volunteers, who either transport plants and pots, help out during the clay classes held monthly at the Plains Art Museum or work on the handwritten notes.

Since its creation, P4P has gifted potted plants to more than 3,500 women.

The nonprofit is in the middle of a campaign aimed at raising $5,000 to secure a permanent home for the hundreds of plants, grow lights and pots. It held a fundraiser in November and has launched a GoFundMe page.

Gelinske said she hopes the group can continue spreading compassion to women at a time when they most need it.

“In the society we’re living in right now, I think it’s really important to show people kindness,” she said.

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