Center for Reproductive Rights Takes Legal Action Against North Dakota Law Aimed at Closing State's Only Abortion Clinic

(PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights took legal action today on behalf of North Dakota’s only abortion clinic and its doctors to block a state law designed to shut down the Red River Women’s Clinic and effectively end safe and legal abortion in the state.

Senate Bill 2305, which was signed into law on March 26, imposes medically unwarranted requirements that any physician performing abortions in the state must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. A nearly identical measure in Mississippi was signed into law last year and has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge after the Center challenged the law on behalf of the state’s last abortion clinic and its doctors.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“With their relentless campaign to end safe and legal abortion in North Dakota, lawmakers have effectively told the women of their state, ‘We don’t care about your health, we don’t care about your safety, and we sure don’t care about your constitutional and human rights.’

“Our message back to politicians hostile to reproductive rights in North Dakota and nationwide is crystal clear: We are going to fight back relentlessly against your attacks on the women of your state.

“We are not going to let you hijack women’s decisions about their families, health, and future. We are going to ensure that women’s rights are protected with the full force of the law. And we are going to keep the full range of reproductive health care safe, legal, and accessible to all women.”

Today’s legal action supplements the Center’s 2011 lawsuit against a North Dakota law imposing onerous restrictions on medication abortion and requiring the clinic to have a medically unnecessary written backup agreement to handle emergencies at a local hospital —which a state judge recently announced following a three-day trial he would permanently strike as unconstitutional—to include SB 2305 in the case.

“No politician or hospital administrator has the authority to decide if women in North Dakota can exercise their constitutionally protected right to an abortion,” said Autumn Katz, staff attorney for the Center and lead counsel on the case. “We are confident that the courts will agree and ultimately strike down this harmful and unnecessary requirement.”

Red River Women's Clinic is the only abortion provider in North Dakota and provides a range of reproductive health services to women in North Dakota, as well as to women who travel from neighboring states like South Dakota and Minnesota.

Once SB 2305 was signed into law, the physicians at the clinic immediately began the process of attempting to comply with the new law. However, the clinic has already received indications from hospitals within 30 miles that the clinic’s physicians would not be granted privileges for reasons such as hospital policies on abortion care and the minimum number of patients doctors must admit per year.

“Our clinic has been providing safe abortion care and other essential reproductive health care services to North Dakota women for nearly 15 years and we have never been more committed to staying open for our patients than we are today,” said Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women’s Clinic. “Without our clinic, women in North Dakota and many surrounding states would be forced to travel hundreds of miles to other states just to get a legal medical procedure.”

Along with SB 2305, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple signed HB 1456 into law— the earliest and most extreme abortion ban in the country that would make virtually all abortions in the state illegal after the point at which a fetal heart tone can be detected, about six weeks of pregnancy. Governor Dalrymple also signed HB 1305, an unconstitutional bill banning pre-viability abortions for reasons of sex-selection or genetic fetal anomaly.

The Center for Reproductive Rights will soon file a lawsuit challenging both HB 1456 and HB 1305 on behalf the Red River Women's Clinic before they are scheduled to take effect on August 1, 2013.

The Center filed today’s proposed supplemental complaint, MKB Management Corp d/b/a Red River Women’s Clinic, Tammi Kromenaker, Kathryn Eggleston, M.D., v. Birch Burdick and Terry Dwelle, M.D., along with law firm Turman & Lang Ltd.