Advocates Intervene On Corrupt North Dakota Abortion Ban With Lawsuit

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Another ban on abortion throughout all stages of pregnancy with extremely rare exceptions was challenged this week in court. The challenged ban is a North Dakota measure slated to take effect on July 28, and it’s the target of a lawsuit brought by Red River Women’s Clinic, the last abortion provider in the state.

The North Dakota measure is among numerous so-called trigger bans passed by Republican state leaders in the years before Roe v. Wade was actually overturned. The restrictions were designed to take effect in the event Roe was overturned at some point. The new lawsuit against the North Dakota measure argues the state’s trigger ban is in violation of the state constitution; the argument mirrors cases in other states where litigants have also pointed to state-level standards. In New York and California, state constitutional amendments to explicitly protect abortion access are moving through required processes. (Californians vote on their state’s proposal this November.) “Under the state constitution, North Dakotans are guaranteed the rights of life, liberty, safety, and happiness, all of which protect the right to abortion,” a press release from the Center for Reproductive Rights asserts.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe left state officials free to restrict abortion according to their personal and political ambitions, no matter the health consequences for constituents. Trigger bans in Utah, Louisiana, and Kentucky have been the subject of temporary blocks since Roe was undone. Just this week, the state Supreme Court in Kentucky denied a request by state Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who’s running for governor, to allow the enforcement of the state’s trigger ban. Cameron lost, at least temporarily, at every level of the state’s judiciary: after Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Mitch Perry granted a temporary restraining order blocking the ban, Cameron asked the Kentucky Court of Appeals to allow the ban’s enforcement, but the appeals court refused. After that point, Cameron unsuccessfully petitioned the state Supreme Court.

In North Dakota, the looming abortion ban contains familiarly harsh penalties for abortion providers who violate it, including prison terms of up to five years and fines of up to $10,000. Tammi Kromenaker, Director of Red River Women’s Clinic, remarked: “We have faced relentless attacks from North Dakota lawmakers who have long wanted us gone. But we will fight this draconian ban like the other outrageous bans and restrictions that came before it. In the meantime, we will keep our doors open to provide abortion care to patients who need us. Being the last remaining abortion clinic in the state, our patients already have to travel long distances just to reach us. Our patients deserve the right to access essential health care if and when they need it regardless of zip code.”

Since Roe was swept away, there’s also been litigation against abortion restrictions in states including Idaho, Florida, Ohio, and Texas. The North Dakota clinic evidently has a sort of contingency plan in place to help with the continued provision of abortion services: a new location in Moorhead, Minnesota, is under development, and in support of that effort, nearly $1 million has been raised as of this Thursday afternoon. “Words of gratitude simply can’t be formed,” the organizer of the GoFundMe campaign facilitating the donations said in a recent update. “As the only abortion clinic within hundreds of miles, a move across the border to stay open and serve the people in our region will be made possible because of an outpouring of love and support.” Moorhead is roughly 15 minutes away from the clinic’s current location in North Dakota.