The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) [advocacy site] filed a lawsuit Tuesday in the US District Court for the District of North Dakota [official website] alleging that two restrictive North Dakota abortion laws violate the US constitution. CRR filed suit [press release] on behalf of the Red River Women's Clinic [clinic website] challenging HB 1456 and HB 1305 [materials], which, respectively, prohibit abortion after the point at which cardiac activity can be detected in a pregnancy, and for reasons of sex-selection and for genetic fetal anomaly. The ban on abortion after detection of a fetal heartbeat effectively prohibits abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy in opposition to Roe v. Wade, which allows abortions until the fetus is viable at 22 to 24 weeks. The ban on abortions sought for sex selection and fetal anomaly is reportedly the first of its kind in the US. CRR alleges that the laws "relegate the women of North Dakota to a second class of citizens" with rights unequal to women in other states, and that the restrictions place women's health in danger by banning abortion at a time before a woman may even know she is pregnant. The Red River Women's clinic is the only abortion clinic in North Dakota, and is reportedly used by women from neighboring states like South Dakota and Minnesota.
North Dakota has been at the forefront of the ongoing debate on reproductive rights [JURIST backgrounder] in recent months. Last week North Dakota Judge Wickham Corwin ruled [JURIST report] that lawsuits challenging two state abortion laws can be combined into one case. In May CRR challenged [JURIST report] a North Dakota law which restricts abortion providers to those doctors recognized by a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. This lawsuit supplemented a previous challenge against a 2011 North Dakota law restricting drug-induced abortions, which a state judge recently said he would strike down [JURIST report]. In April North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple 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 into law the two measures which form the basis of CCR's complaint.