Abortion rights activists filed the first legal challenges Wednesday against North Dakota's draconian new anti-abortion laws. According to the Associated Press, attorneys for the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit in state court challenging a state law requiring that physicians who perform abortions obtain hospital admitting privileges.
North Dakota's current anti-abortion laws are among the most restrictive in the country. Representatives of the state's sole remaining clinic that performs abortions, the Red River Women's Clinic in downtown Fargo, argue that the admitting privileges law could make abortion functionally illegal in the state.
So few abortions require hospitalization, say clinicians, that most care providers who perform them do not have hospital admitting privileges.
Nancy Northrup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights said in a statement, "With their relentless campaign to end safe and legal abortion in North Dakota, lawmakers have effectively told the women of their state, ‘We don’t care about your health, we don’t care about your safety, and we sure don’t care about your constitutional and human rights.’"
“Our message back to politicians hostile to reproductive rights in North Dakota and nationwide is crystal clear: We are going to fight back relentlessly against your attacks on the women of your state," she said.
North Dakota Attorney General General Stenehjem has vowed to fight the rights activists just as tirelessly on behalf of the state.
"This is a significant case, but we have lawyers in our office who handle controversial and complicated cases all the time," he told the AP. "We will zealously advocate as lawyers are required to do for our client."
The hospital privileges law is one of a brace of anti-choice measures signed into law by Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) and the Republican led state legislature. Like many who oppose women's right to choose, state Republicans are attempting a de facto overthrow of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling by way of spurious taxes, regulations and requirements for reproductive health centers where abortions are performed.
The Center for Reproductive Freedom lawsuit is just the first of many planned by rights groups seeking to have the new laws declared unconstitutional. Attorneys for the Center and for Red River are preparing two more suits, one challenging North Dakota's ban on abortions once a fetal heartbeat has been detected, which could be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women even realize that they are pregnant.
Red River's director Tammi Kromenaker said in a statement, "Our clinic has been providing safe abortion care and other essential reproductive health care services to North Dakota women for nearly 15 years and we have never been more committed to staying open for our patients than we are today. Without our clinic, women in North Dakota and many surrounding states would be forced to travel hundreds of miles to other states just to get a legal medical procedure.”
[image of lawyer wearing boxing gloves via Shutterstock.com]