BISMARCK, N.D. — The North Dakota Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a state abortion ban will remain blocked while a lawsuit over its constitutionality proceeds.
The ban was designed to take effect once the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. But a district judge had put it on hold this summer while the Red River Women’s Clinic pursued a lawsuit arguing the state constitution protected a right to an abortion.
The law — one of many abortion-restricting measures passed by state legislatures in anticipation of the high court’s decision — includes exceptions to save the life of the mother and in cases of rape or incest.
The Red River Women’s Clinic — the state’s only abortion clinic — shut its doors this summer and moved operations a short distance from Fargo to Moorhead, Minnesota, where abortion remains legal. But the clinic’s owner is still pursuing the lawsuit.
Attorney General Drew Wrigley had argued the ban should be enforced while the lawsuit proceeds, saying Burleigh County District Judge Bruce Romanick erred by granting the injunction. Romanick has said that the Red River Women’s Clinic had a “substantial probability” of succeeding in its lawsuit, but also said there’s no “clear and obvious answer” on whether the state constitution conveys a right to abortion.
Attorneys for the clinic had argued that Romanick’s decision to block the ban was proper.
When Romanick blocked the law from taking effect, he acknowledged that the clinic had moved but noted that doctors and hospitals would still be affected by the statute. Under the law, a doctor who performs an abortion would be charged with a felony and then have to prove the procedure was done in cases of either rape or incest or to save the mother’s life.
Lawyers for the clinic said the ban and its rules on affirmative defenses may make doctors hesitant “from performing abortions even in a life-threatening situation.”
Since the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade, the ruling that protected the right to abortion for nearly five decades, abortion restrictions have been up to states and the landscape has shifted quickly.