Court Blocks GOP Abortion Ban That Has No Exceptions For Health

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The state Supreme Court in North Dakota has — for now — blocked a sweeping ban on abortion in the state that evidently would only include exceptions for cases in which the pregnant individual’s life is endangered in situations involving health concerns.

And even that provision isn’t a model of at least a basic level of compassion. What about the serious health complications that such an individual could face while their condition worsens and the medical staff handling their situation grapple with whether they can provide an abortion without facing strict penalties? The specific move taken by the North Dakota judges was to allow the decision of a judge in a lower court blocking the ban to stand, but litigation is continuing. The state’s high court also found that the state Constitution there protects the right of pregnant individuals to pursue an abortion for reason of protecting their life or health. Those allowances were under what the court identified as “the right to enjoy and defend life and a right to pursue and obtain safety.”

The underlying case originates with Red River Women’s Clinic, an abortion provider that formerly operated in the state but has recently moved operations to Minnesota, remaining concerned about the availability of abortion for pregnant people in North Dakota in contexts like a hospital or care from their personal physician. The high court found that the claimants had “demonstrated likely success on the merits that there is a fundamental right to an abortion in the limited instances of life-saving and health-preserving circumstances, and the statute is not narrowly tailored to satisfy strict scrutiny.” No doubt predictably, state legislators have been working on another ban that could impose restrictions on abortion outside the context of disputes over the somewhat more sweeping measure that was before the state Supreme Court.

Elsewhere, Florida lawmakers are working on a measure to claw back the deadline for a permitted abortion to six weeks from the ban at 15 weeks currently under dispute in court. Florida is, of course, among the largest states by population in the country — and it’s currently led by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and Republican majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.

In Texas, a group of women recently filed a lawsuit challenging the implementation of certain exceptions available under that state’s rules. Plaintiffs had faced threats to their health but still grappled with challenges with actually receiving an abortion in the state of Texas until their own physical condition was at times rapidly deteriorating. One of the women participating in the case had to go in for surgery meant to remove scar tissue — some of which remained even through the surgical visit — months after the initial ordeal. They were seeking a court declaration about the kinds of exceptions allowed.