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North Dakota abortion law challenged

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) [advocacy website] on Wednesday challenged [supplemental complaint, PDF; motion, PDF] a North Dakota law that places additional requirements on abortion clinics. SB 2305 [text PDF], passed [JURIST report] in March, restricts abortion providers to those doctors recognized by a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. Although the providers at Red River Women's Clinic [clinic website] sought such recognition, pre-existing hospital policies prevented them from complying with the statute. Without such recognition, the clinic could be shut down. As that facility is the only abortion clinic in the state, this statute could effectively ban abortion there. Lead counsel for the CRR, Autumn Katz, remarked, "No politician or hospital administrator has the authority to decide if women in North Dakota can exercise their constitutionally protected right to an abortion... We are confident that the courts will agree and ultimately strike down this harmful and unnecessary requirement." While the statute does not ban abortion, the CRR argues that it restricts access to reproductive rights and is thus effectively unconstitutional.

North Dakota has been at the recent forefront of the ongoing debate on reproductive rights [JURIST backgrounder]. Wednesday's lawsuit supplements a previous challenge against a 2011 North Dakota law [HB 1297, PDF] restricting drug-induced abortions, which a state judge recently said he would strike down [JURIST report]. In April North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple [official website] signed a measure [JURIST report] banning abortions after 20 weeks based on the controversial premise that a fetus can feel pain at that point. Dalrymple also signed two other bills into law, HB 1305 and HB 1456 [text, PDF], along with SB 2305. The CRR is also planning challenges to those provisions.

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