North Dakota Supreme Court upholds abortion ban

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BISMARCK, North Dakota — The North Dakota Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a state abortion ban will remain blocked while a lawsuit continues over its constitutionality.

The ban was designed to take effect once the US Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. But a district judge suspended it this summer while the Red River Women’s Clinic (RRWC) ​​filed a lawsuit arguing that the state constitution protected the right to abortion.

“While the regulation of abortion is within the authority of the legislature under the North Dakota Constitution, RRWC has demonstrated likely success on the merits that a fundamental right to abortion exists in the limited cases of life-saving circumstances and preserve health, and the statute is not strictly designed to meet strict scrutiny,” Chief Justice Jon J. Jensen wrote in the ruling.

The law, one of many abortion-restricting measures passed by state legislatures before the US Supreme Court’s Roe decision, includes exceptions to save the life of the mother and in cases of rape or incest. Otherwise, a doctor performing an abortion would face a felony charge, which abortion rights advocates say could prevent doctors from performing abortions even if the mother’s health is at risk.

The Red River Women’s Clinic, the only abortion clinic in the state, closed its doors this summer and moved its operations a short distance from Fargo to Moorhead, Minnesota, where abortion remains legal. But the owner of the clinic continues with the lawsuit.

“The court made the right decision and sided with the people of North Dakota today,” clinic director Tammi Kromenaker said in a statement. “Those who seek abortion services know what is best for them and their families and should be able to access such essential services when they are needed. While I am heartbroken that we have been forced to close our doors here in Fargo, we will continue to serve the region at our new clinic in Moorhead, Minnesota.”

Republican Attorney General Drew Wrigley criticized the ruling. He said in a statement that the state Supreme Court chose “to go its own way, holding that there is now also an indefinite ‘health’ exception to the abortion regulation.”

He added: “Our Supreme Court did this without the explicit support of our state Constitution and without the support of legislative enactments in our history of regulating abortion. In doing so, the North Dakota Supreme Court appears to have assumed the role of a body legislature, a role that our constitution does not grant them”.

Wrigley noted that state legislators are working on legislation “amending North Dakota’s abortion laws, and will now have the opportunity to enact the will of North Dakotans, mindful of the latest Dakota Supreme Court ruling. from North”.

He had argued that the ban should apply while the lawsuit progresses, saying Burleigh County District Judge Bruce Romanick erred in granting the injunction. Romanick has said the Red River Women’s Clinic had a “substantial likelihood” of succeeding in its lawsuit, but also said there is no “clear and obvious answer” to whether the state constitution grants the right to abortion.

Lawyers for the clinic argued that Romanick’s decision to block the ban was correct.

When Romanick blocked the law from going into effect, he acknowledged that the clinic had moved, but noted that doctors and hospitals would still be affected by the statute.

Since the US Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, the ruling that protected abortion rights for nearly five decades, abortion restrictions have been left to the states, and the landscape has changed rapidly.

Thirteen states are now banning abortion at any time during pregnancy and one more, Georgia, bans it once heart activity can be detected, or around six weeks gestation.

Aborting has become increasingly difficult for women living in states with bans, leading in some cases to further medical complications and in others forcing residents to travel hours or even days to reach a facility that can perform abortions. legally.

Courts have stayed enforcement of abortion bans or deep restrictions in Arizona, Indiana, Montana, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah and Wyoming. Idaho courts have compelled the state to allow abortions during medical emergencies.


MacPherson is a former Associated Press writer. Ahmed reported from Minneapolis. Jim Salter in O’Fallon, Missouri contributed to this report.

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