(PRESS RELEASE) Today, a federal district court in North Dakota granted the Center for Reproductive Rights’ request for a preliminary injunction, blocking a state law passed earlier this year and scheduled to take effect last month. The law requires physicians to tell patients that a medication abortion (abortion by pills) may be “reversed”—a patently false and unproven claim. The lawsuit was filed in June by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the American Medical Association (AMA) and Red River Women’s Clinic, the only abortion clinic in North Dakota.
In the decision, Chief Judge Daniel Hovland wrote, “State legislatures should not be mandating unproven medical treatments, or requiring physicians to provide patients with misleading and inaccurate information. The provisions of [this law] violate a physician’s right not to speak and go far beyond any informed consent laws addressed by the United States Supreme Court, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, or other courts to date.”
“Across the country, doctors are being used as political pawns in the attack on abortion,” said Marc Hearron, Senior Counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We all have the right to free speech and to speak the truth. That doesn’t change because you’re a doctor who provides abortion care. Today, the court stepped in to protect the First Amendment rights of these physicians."
“It’s simple: patients need to be able to trust their providers,” said Tammi Kromenaker, Director of Red River Women’s Clinic. “Forcing us to give our patients false medical information would violate our medical ethics and endanger the trust our patients place in us.”
Eight states—Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Utah—have passed similar laws requiring abortion providers to tell patients about so-called medication abortion “reversal.” Five of those eight laws were passed in 2019.
This lawsuit is also challenging an existing North Dakota law, which requires physicians to tell patients that abortion terminates “the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being”—a controversial, ideological, and non-medical message. The court has yet to rule on this aspect of the case.
Women in North Dakota face significant barriers to abortion care. Anti-abortion politicians in North Dakota have enacted a 24-hour waiting period for patients seeking abortion, limited the conditions under which state, public and private insurance can cover abortion services, banned the use of telemedicine for abortion, and required parental notification for minors seeking abortion services.
Plaintiffs in this case are represented by lawyers from the AMA, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, and the Dickson Law Office in Bismarck, ND.
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