The Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo is suing to block enforcement of North Dakota’s trigger ban on abortions, which is set to take effect later this month.
North Dakota’s law makes performing an abortion a class C felony, except in certain cases, such as saving the life of the patient. Providers could face up to five years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000.
The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the clinic, alleges that the trigger ban violates the state constitution.
“This [lawsuit] provides North Dakota courts with an important opportunity to find that the North Dakota constitution provides independent due process protections for North Dakotans and their fundamental right to bodily autonomy, and to make decisions affecting their health,” said Genevieve Scott, senior counsel with the U.S. litigation group at the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The group also challenged the date that the ban goes into effect. In a letter, delivered a few days after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on June 24, North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley said the ban would take effect July 28.
But the clinic argues that while the Supreme Court has issued its opinion, the high court has not issued a judgment, a step that it says is required to trigger the ban.
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“So there is a distinction between the U.S. Supreme Court issuing an opinion in a case and actually issuing its final judgment. And that has not happened yet,” Scott said. “And so the action by the AG trying to certify the trigger ban is legally premature.”
According to the filing, a judgment typically comes out 25 days after the opinion is filed.
“We are carefully reviewing and evaluating the complaint,” Wrigley said in a statement. “I will reserve further comment until our formal response is complete and filed with the district court.”
If the ban does go into effect, the Red River clinic — which is the last remaining abortion clinic in the state — would be forced to stop performing abortions. The clinic’s director Tammi Kromenaker has previously said they will relocate services to nearby Moorhead, Minn. if that happens.
“We have faced relentless attacks from North Dakota lawmakers who have long wanted us gone. But we will fight this draconian ban like the other outrageous bans and restrictions that came before it," Kromenaker said, in a statement. "In the meantime, we will keep our doors open to provide abortion care to patients who need us.”