On Wednesday, judges in Wyoming and North Dakota stopped new abortion restrictions in those states from taking effect. The states previously enacted so-called trigger bans on abortion that were meant to become active should Roe v. Wade be overturned, as it recently was.
In North Dakota, Burleigh County District Judge Bruce Romanick went with the argument from those challenging that state’s restrictions that North Dakota leadership failed to appropriately follow the procedural steps required for implementing the state trigger ban. Those behind the case “argued that a 30-day clock should not have started until the U.S. Supreme Court issued its certified judgment on Tuesday,” the Associated Press explains. A certified judgment is different from an opinion, which is the document that came out much earlier in the Dobbs case in which the court overturned Roe. The referenced 30-day time period is the legislated span between the official certification in North Dakota of the Supreme Court overturning Roe and the state’s ban taking effect. North Dakota state Attorney General Drew Wrigley said he’d re-certify what the Supreme Court did.
“In light of State District Court Judge Bruce Romanick’s decision issued today, I will officially re-certify what has been clear from the day that the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in Dobbs: Roe v. Wade has been reversed, and NDCC 12.1-31-12 shall be given its full effect, in accordance with its provisions. My certification will be delivered to the North Dakota Legislative Council before 6:00 pm July 27, 2022,” as the official explained. From there, the fight in court presumably continues, as it does in other states with abortion restrictions already enacted or looming after the end of Roe gave state officials the ability to regulate abortion largely according to their political ambitions. There’s only one abortion clinic left in North Dakota: Red River Women’s Clinic. It’s behind the case against North Dakota’s looming ban and is simultaneously preparing to start a new base of operations in Minnesota, just over the border.
As for Wyoming, Teton County District Judge Melissa Owens acted in apparent response to the potential for new abortion restrictions in the state to leave medical personnel mired in dangerous uncertainty about the potential for prosecution while caring for pregnant individuals suffering from health complications. “That is a possible irreparable injury to the plaintiffs. They are left with no guidance,” Owens remarked of those involved in situations with a pregnancy that’s now connected to potentially dangerous health issues. There are exceptions under the looming Wyoming restrictions for saving the life of or preventing certain injuries to the pregnant person, but if a doctor is left wondering whether taking action to protect someone’s health reached the threshold that it would be protected, dangerous complications could result from the delays.
As the Associated Press summarizes, the Wyoming case “claims the abortion ban will harm the women — two obstetricians, a pregnant nurse and a University of Wyoming law student — by outlawing potentially life-saving treatment options for their patients or themselves.” Those individuals are among those behind the court challenge. Two nonprofit organizations — including one that was angling to open a new clinic where abortion services would be provided earlier this year until an arson attack set those plans back by months — are also involved.