North Dakota Abortion Clinic Can Fight Limits, Group Says

A North Dakota medical clinic’s challenge to a state law requiring abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges was added to its 2011 suit over other restrictions on the procedure, the Center for Reproductive Rights said in a statement.

Today’s report, saying Judge Wickham Corwin in Fargo had approved the addition, couldn’t immediately be confirmed in court records. The New York-based center asked for the challenges to be joined last month on behalf of the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, the state’s only abortion provider.

The filing augmented its earlier complaint challenging a requirement that providers of drug-induced abortions have written contracts with “emergency backup” doctors who have admitting privileges, and imposing criminal penalties for failing to do so.

While the challenge to that stricture has been tried before Corwin, the judge hasn’t ruled on whether it illegally restricts abortion availability.

The new affiliation provision, scheduled to take effect Aug. 1, requires all doctors who perform abortions to have privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (48 kilometers) of their facility and permission to perform those same procedures at the hospital.

‘Unconstitutionally Infringes’

The measure “unconstitutionally infringes upon a woman’s fundamental right to chose to have an abortion,” according to Red River’s supplemental complaint.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s press secretary, Liz Brocker, had no immediate comment on the ruling.

Governor Jack Dalrymple signed the bill March 26.

“The added requirement that the hospital privileges must include allowing abortions to take place in their facility greatly increases the chances that this measure will face a court challenge,” Dalrymple said then in a press statement.

“Nevertheless, it is a legitimate and new question for the courts regarding a precise restriction on doctors who perform abortions,” the governor said.

That same day, Dalrymple also signed legislation banning almost all abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, potentially as soon as the sixth week of a pregnancy, acknowledging it too would likely face legal challenge.

‘Legitimate Attempt’

“This bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade,” he said, referring to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision establishing a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion before a fetus is able to live outside the womb.

Violation of the heartbeat rule would constitute a felony, while a breach of the hospital admitting privileges rule would be a misdemeanor.

The case is MKB Management Corp., d/b/a Red River Women’s Clinic v. Burdick, 09-2011-CV-02205, North Dakota District Court, East Central Judicial District, Cass County (Fargo).

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