Activists take North Dakota to court over 6-week abortion ban

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, June 25, 2013 13:52 EDT
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Officials in North Dakota will be forced to defend the nation’s toughest abortion ban in court soon thanks to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by pro-choice advocates.

The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights said they filed the lawsuit to protect the constitutional rights of women in North Dakota, whose reproductive health needs are served by just one facility in the whole state, The Red River Women’s Clinic.

The ban was signed in March by North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R), who warned fellow Republicans in a signing statement that the law clearly contradicts Supreme Court precedent, which allows states to prohibit abortion after a fetus becomes viable, usually between 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. Dalrymple also anticipated legal challenges and asked the legislature for funds to defend the new law in court.

He signed the six-week abortion ban on the same day as a bill that requires abortion clinics in the state to adhere to standards for ambulatory surgical centers, which medical professionals say is unnecessary. Critics of the law said that its real aim is to shut down the state’s only abortion clinic. The Center for Reproductive Rights immediately filed a lawsuit challenging that law as well.

“Such an extreme ban on abortion would have a devastating impact on women in North Dakota and our neighboring states, especially those who do not have the resources to travel hundreds of miles to access reproductive health care,” Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women’s Clinic, said in an advisory.

Other laws that ban abortion well before viability, in Arizona, Idaho, Georgia and Arkansas, have been blocked by courts in recent months. Nevertheless, Republicans in statehouses around the country continue to push for more and more restrictive measures.

“Plain and simple, these laws will endanger women’s lives and deny them rights that are supposed to be guaranteed to all Americans under the U.S. Constitution,” Nancy Northup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in an advisory. “We intend to stop them from going into effect before that happens. In their scorched-earth campaign to rid North Dakota of its only reproductive health clinic that provides abortions and effectively end safe, legal abortion in the state, the politicians who advanced these laws made their hostility to women clear.”

["Stock Photo: Woman With Boxing Gloves" on Shutterstock]

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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