The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) [advocacy website] on Monday filed a complaint [text] challenging a North Dakota law [HB 1297 text] that effectively bans non-surgical abortions [JURIST news archive] in the state. 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. Moreover, the complaint alleges, the law creates an undue, expensive and unconstitutional burden because women would have to travel long distances to obtain abortions. CRR President and CEO Nancy Northup denounced the law [press release], saying it infringes on women's reproductive rights:
North Dakota has enacted a law that defies reason, science, and the expertise of doctors worldwide in an underhanded effort to deny women their legal right to terminate a pregnancy safely, early, and in accordance with their doctors' advice and their own wishes. It is unimaginable that any other medical procedures would be targeted for restrictions aimed at reducing their effectiveness and increasing their expense and inconvenience. This is an assault on women's reproductive rights and health, pure and simple.The plaintiffs also contend that the law is impermissibly vague, constitutes an improper delegation of legislative authority and violates the privileges and immunities and bodily integrity rights of women, among other challenges. CRR is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the legislation, which is scheduled to take effect on August 1.
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].