State Judge Blocks ND Law Designed to Close Only Abortion Clinic in the State

(PRESS RELEASE) A state judge ruled today that North Dakota state officials cannot enforce a law designed to shut down the state's only reproductive health care provider offering abortion services—temporarily blocking the law while the legal challenge to the unconstitutional measure, brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights, continues.

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 Bebe Anderson, director of the U.S. legal program at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

"Whether it is a direct assault banning abortion outright or trumped up schemes to regulate women's reproductive health care providers out of practice, the underhanded tactics of politicians hostile to women's health and rights are being rejected by courts at every level in the U.S.

"Today's decision ensures that North Dakota's only abortion clinic can keep its doors open to the many women it provides critical health care to every year.

"We are confident that this law, and all the efforts to erode women's constitutional rights and block their access to essential health care, ultimately will be struck down permanently."

The Center filed the lawsuit in May 2013 on behalf of the Red River Women's Clinic, the only abortion provider in North Dakota, which 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.

The Center also recently filed a federal lawsuit against two other unconstitutional North Dakota laws, one banning abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy—before some women even know they are pregnant—and another outlawing abortions for reasons of sex selection or genetic fetal anomaly. On July 22, a federal judge blocked the six-week abortion ban from going into effect, calling the measure "clearly invalid and unconstitutional" under U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

The Center filed the 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., to challenge the admitting privileges restriction along with law firms Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and Turman & Lang Ltd.