Abortion Clinic

North Dakota’s lone abortion clinic asks judge to delay the start of the state’s “trigger” law banning nearly all abortions

By Dave Andrusko

Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, the only abortion clinic in North Dakota, took its case to a Burleigh County District Court judge today, asking Judge Bruce Romanick to delay the start of the state’s “trigger” law banning nearly all abortions.

According to the Associated Press, lawyers for the clinic “argued for a preliminary injunction as part of a lawsuit that says the ban violates the state constitution.”

“Burleigh County District Judge Bruce Romanick said he would make a decision on the motion by the end of next week,” James MacPherson and Dave Kolpack reported. “He did not say how they would proceed with the lawsuit.”

Arguing for the state, Matthew Sagsveen said that there is no fundamental right to abortion “either expressed or implied” in the state constitution.”

Arguing for the clinic, Lauren Bernstein said the ban “would not only violate the constitution, it would remove 50 years of abortion access in the state.”

“The stakes really could not be any higher,” Bernstein said, according to MacPherson and Romanick.

The judge put the trigger ban on hold last month, MacPherson and Kolpack wrote

when he ruled that Attorney General Drew Wrigley was premature in setting a July 28 closing date. The judge issued a temporary restraining order that in effect gave the Fargo clinic time to transition to a new location in nearby Moorhead, Minnesota, where abortion remains legal, even as it seeks to block the ban.

North Dakota passed its trigger law in 2007. It was to go into effect if  the U.S. Supreme Court ever reversed its 1973 ruling. The High Court did so on June 24. 

The issue of whether the state Constitution protects a “right” to abortion came up previously,  in 2011, in the context of regulating chemical abortions. A Cass County judge ruled it unconstitutional, “saying it essentially eliminated the procedure and illegally restricted abortion rights,” the Associated Press reported.

The case went to the state Supreme Court, where in 2014 two justices ruled that the North Dakota Constitution does not protect abortion rights, two said it does and one justice said it wasn’t their place to decide. It takes four justices to declare a law unconstitutional, so the lower court ruling was reversed

The trigger ban, which makes abortion illegal except in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother, takes effect on August 26, if the judge does nothing.

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