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North Dakota court temporarily blocks medical abortion law

A North Dakota judge on Thursday issued a temporary injunction [press release] against a state law [HB 1297 text] that effectively bans non-surgical abortions [JURIST news archive]. The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) [advocacy website] filed a complaint [text] challenging the North Dakota and seeking an injunction [JURIST report] on Monday. The law restricts the use of mifepristone, misoprostol [FDA backgrounders] and other drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] to induce first-trimester abortions. The complaint, filed on behalf of the sole abortion provider in the state, alleges that the law would altogether prohibit medication abortions, preventing women who prefer the non-surgical abortion procedure from obtaining treatment. The plaintiffs also contend that the law is impermissibly vague, constitutes an improper delegation of legislative authority, violates the privileges and immunities and bodily integrity rights of women, and creates an undue burden, among other challenges. North Dakota Supreme Court [official website] Judge Wickham Corwin said "the public is best served if these questions are considered before the challenged provisions are enforced." CRR President and CEO Nancy Northup welcomed the injunction and condemned the law:

We are extremely pleased that, for the time being, women in North Dakota will still have access to an alternative to surgical abortion that has been widely recognized as safe and effective by medical experts and organizations around the world. This law has nothing to do with protecting women's health—it defies reason, science and medical expertise in a clandestine attempt to limit women's access to abortion.
The law, which was slated to take effect on August 1, will not be enforced until a hearing takes place on August 29.

North Dakota is one of many states to introduce more restrictive abortion regulations in recent months. In June, the Ohio House of Representatives [official website] voted 54-43 to approve legislation [HB 125] that would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable [JURIST report], which could occur as early as six weeks into the pregnancy. The Iowa House of Representatives [official website] also voted in June in favor of a bill [HF-1736 text, PDF] that would effectively ban abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy [JURIST report], making it the most restrictive abortion law in the country. In May, a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website] upheld an Ohio law [2919.123 text] that limits the use of the "abortion pill" [JURIST report], overturning a 2006 injunction [JURIST report]. Oklahoma has also prohibited the use of mifepristone [JURIST report]. Multiple states have acted to ban abortions after 20 weeks, when some studies suggest a fetus can begin feeling pain, including Missouri, Indiana, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kansas and Idaho [JURIST reports].

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