Abortion Rule on Hospital Access Blocked in North Dakota

A North Dakota law requiring abortion providers to be affiliated with a hospital within 30 miles (48 kilometers) of their clinic was temporarily blocked by a state court in Fargo.

Judge Wickham Corwin granted a request by the Red River Women’s Clinic to block the law after a hearing yesterday, saying the state failed to show a compelling need for it. The clinic is the only abortion provider in North Dakota, he said in his ruling.

“A woman’s right to choose is one of the inalienable freedoms guaranteed by the first section of our constitution,” Corwin said, contradicting the state’s arguments.

Signed into law by Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple on March 26, the affiliation requirement was scheduled to take effect tomorrow and would have forced the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo to close.

“As RRWC provides its physicians with the appropriate staff and facilities, there is obviously no need for a legislative mandate that each of those physicians be credentialed to also perform abortions at a local hospital,” the judge said.

Second Setback

Corwin’s ruling was the second setback last month for efforts to place new limits on abortion in North Dakota. A law barring abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected was temporarily blocked July 22 by a federal judge who called the measure “a blatant violation” of U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s press secretary, Liz Brocker, didn’t immediately respond yesterday to an e-mail seeking comment on Corwin’s ruling.

“Today’s decision ensures that North Dakota’s only abortion clinic can keep its doors open to the many women it provides critical health care to every year,” Bebe Anderson, director of the Center for Reproductive Rights’ U.S. legal program, said yesterday in a statement.

The admitting 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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