Abortion Clinic Asks Permission to Fight North Dakota Law

The Center for Reproductive Rights, already suing North Dakota on behalf of a Fargo women’s clinic over a rule requiring contracts with back-up doctors, is asking to also challenge a new law mandating abortion providers have hospital admitting privileges.

Lawyers for the Red River Women’s Clinic filed the request today with Cass County Court Judge Wickham Corwin in Fargo.

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

“Its purpose is to shut down the clinic, the sole abortion facility in the state,” according to the proposed supplemental complaint filed today with the center’s bid for permission to pursue the claim.

State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s press office didn’t immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment on the filing.

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 heart-beat rule would constitute a felony, while a breach of the hospital admitting privileges rule would be a misdemeanor.

Corwin last month presided over a trial of the clinic’s challenge to the back-up doctor law and other restrictions applied to so-called medication abortions, according to the court’s electronic docket. He hasn’t issued a written decision.

The case is MKB Management Corp., doing business as Red River Women’s Clinic v. Burdick, 09-2011-cv-02205, District Court for the East Central Judicial District, Cass County, North Dakota (Fargo).

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