Lawyers for the only abortion clinic in North Dakota launched a legal bid on Wednesday to try and combat a new law that critics say is aimed at closing it down and leaving the state without any abortion providers.
The law is one of a raft of anti-abortion measures due to take effect in North Dakota that have already made it one of the most hostile states in the US for abortion. The rule mandates that all doctors performing abortions must have admitting privileges in a local hospital – something difficult to do as generally they come from out of state.
The only abortion centre in North Dakota is the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo and the court bid is being brought on its behalf by the Center for Reproductive Rights. "We are going to ensure that women's rights are protected with the full force of the law. And we are going to keep the full range of reproductive health care safe, legal and accessible to all women," said CRR president Nancy Northup.
North Dakota has recently been at the forefront of a renewed push by anti-abortion activists and politicians across the US. Instead of focusing on the legality of abortion itself, campaigners have instead concentrated on tightening rules and regulations to such an extent that it makes it difficult for clinics to continue operating.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks developments in reproductive health services in the US, there have been some 694 new provisions – 93 of which have been approved – on issues of women's reproductive rights in the first three months of 2013 alone. In North Dakota the new laws have included one of the toughest pieces of anti-abortion legislation in the country which would ban the procedure after a fetal heart beat is detected – about six weeks.
Staff at the Red River clinic have already started trying to comply with the law requiring their doctors getting admitting privileges but have run across problems. Of the three local hospitals close to Fargo indications are so far that local policies on abortion care or the number of patients a doctor must admit will make the law difficult to comply with.
Red River staff have said that the law could force the clinic to close if the court bid is unsuccessful and they say that would be a disaster for local women. "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," said Tammi Kromenaker, the clinic's director.
A similar law on local admitting privileges brought onto the books in Mississippi last year has been temporarily blocked after a CRR suit was lodged in that state.