BISMARCK — The North Dakota Supreme Court heard argument this week on whether the state may disregard federal rulings on abortion and solely follow the state Constitution when creating laws that restrict or regulate the procedure.
In 2011, North Dakota legislators passed a bill that restricted drug-based abortions to those that only follow the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) protocol for use.
Following its passage, attorneys with the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit on behalf of the sole abortion facility in the state, Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, claiming that the state was effectively enacting a ban on medical abortions altogether.
The facility uses both Mifeprex and Misprostol in abortion procedures, but due to the new law, Misprostol now could not be utilized as it is not an abortion-inducing drug and had been administered off-label.
In April, the case was argued during a three-day trial before state District Judge Wickham Corwin, who opined that the restriction was “simply wrongheaded,” but waited to release a formal opinion until July.
“[I am] convinced that a woman’s reproductive rights must be protected under the state constitution and must be recognized as fundamental,” he stated.
During this time, the Center for Reproductive Rights sought to add a challenge to its suit as the state had passed a new regulation that required abortionists to obtain admitting privileges within 30 miles should a woman become injured during the procedure. Corwin granted the inclusion, which drew praise from Center attorney Autumn Katz.
“We are pleased that the judge has allowed our legal challenge to the state’s medically unwarranted admitting privileges law to supplement an existing lawsuit against North Dakota’s unconstitutional restrictions on medication abortion,” Katz said in a written statement.
After Corwin issued injunctions against both regulations, the state appealed to the North Dakota Supreme Court, remarking that the judge had erred in applying Roe v. Wade to the case instead of the state Constitution. Argument was heard before the court on Wednesday.
“We take issue that the court applied federal law, basically applying it into the state court,” Assistant Attorney General Douglas Bahr stated, according to Inforum. “There is no right under North Dakota state law to abortion.”
Lawmakers in North Dakota have admitted that regulations passed earlier this year served to contest the U.S. Supreme Court’s legalization of abortion.
“This amendment is intended to present a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade,” Republican Representative Margaret Sitte said of a personhood amendment approved by the legislature in February. “We are intending that it be a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, since Scalia said that the Supreme Court is waiting for states to raise a case.”
A decision is expected in 2014.