On March 16, 2023, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that the state’s “trigger” total abortion ban (H.B. 1466) can remain blocked since the Center’s challenge to the ban is likely to succeed. Abortion remains legal in North Dakota while litigation in state court continues. Read more about the ruling below.
In 2007, North Dakota lawmakers passed H.B. 1466, a “trigger” ban which was designed to outlaw most of the abortion services in the state within 30 days of judgment if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The law would make it a felony to provide abortion care, with exceptions only for the life of the mother, rape, or incest.
After the Supreme Court took away the constitutional right to abortion on June 24, 2022, the Center for Reproductive Rights and its partners filed a lawsuit on July 7 challenging North Dakota’s ban. The lawsuit, Access Independent Health Services, Inc., d/b/a Red River Women’s Clinic v. Drew H. Wrigley, argued that the ban violates the North Dakota Constitution, which protects abortion under the rights of life, liberty, safety, and happiness.
The lawsuit also disputed the trigger ban’s effective date, as the U.S. Supreme Court’s judgments are typically issued at least 25 days after its opinions are released. However, North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley triggered the ban just days after the Supreme Court released its opinion revoking the constitutional right to abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and wrongly stated that abortion would be banned in the state after July 28.
The Burleigh County District Court first issued a temporary restraining order blocking the trigger ban on July 27, holding that Attorney General Wrigley’s certification of the law was premature and that the ban was set to go into effect on August 26.
On August 25, the district court blocked North Dakota’s trigger ban. The court issued a preliminary injunction blocking the ban until a further court order is issued or litigation ends. On October 31, the district court judge once again blocked the ban from taking effect, noting that there is a “substantial probability” that the challenge will succeed. As a result, abortion remained legal in North Dakota while litigation continued.
Oral arguments were presented on November 29 at the North Dakota Supreme Court.
North Dakota Supreme Court Ruling
On March 16, 2023, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that the state’s “trigger” total abortion ban can remain blocked since the Center’s challenge to the ban is likely to succeed. Abortion remains legal in North Dakota while litigation in state court continues.
The court’s ruling states:
- “The North Dakota Constitution explicitly provides all citizens of North Dakota the right of enjoying and defending life and pursuing and obtaining safety. These rights implicitly include the right to obtain an abortion to preserve the woman’s life or health.”
- “North Dakota’s history and traditions, as well as the plain language of its Constitution, establish that the right of a woman to receive an abortion to preserve her life or health was implicit in North Dakota’s concept of ordered liberty before, during, and at the time of statehood…. it is clear the citizens of North Dakota have a right to enjoy and defend life and a right to pursue and obtain safety, which necessarily includes a pregnant woman has a fundamental right to obtain an abortion to preserve her life or her health.”
Center Attorneys: Meetra Mehdizadeh
Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: Christina A. Sambor, Weil, Gotshal & Manges
Plaintiffs: Red River Women’s Clinic, on behalf of itself and its patients, and Kathryn L. Eggleston, M.D., on behalf of herself and her patients
|June 24, 2022||The U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade and takes away the constitutional right to abortion. The Attorney General issues a statement certifying that North Dakota’s trigger ban, which prohibits nearly all abortions in the state, would take effect in 30 days.|
|July 07, 2022||The Center and its partners challenge H.B. 1466 in Burleigh County District Court, arguing that the ban violates the North Dakota Constitution.|
|July 27, 2022||The district court issues a temporary restraining order blocking the ban, on the basis that the attorney general’s certification of the trigger ban on June 24 was premature.|
|August 25, 2022||The district court issues a preliminary injunction, blocking the ban while litigation continues.|
|October 31, 2022||Following an order from the state supreme court to reconsider his August 25 decision, the district court judge once again issues a decision blocking the ban from going into effect. The judge’s order further finds that there is a “substantial probability” the challenge will succeed.|
|November 29, 2022||Oral arguments are held at the North Dakota Supreme Court.|
|March 16, 2023||The North Dakota Supreme Court rules that the state’s “trigger” total abortion ban can remain blocked since the Center’s challenge to the ban is likely to succeed. Abortion remains legal in North Dakota while litigation in state court continues.|
- Complaint, 07.07.22
- Temporary Restraining Order, 07.28.22
- Order on Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction, 08.25.22
- North Dakota Supreme Court ruling, 03.16.23
- Press Release: Challenge Filed to Block North Dakota’s Trigger Ban, 07.07.22
- Abortion Remains Legal in North Dakota as Court Blocks Total Ban, 03.16.23