Lawsuit Amended to Block North Dakota Legislature’s New Extreme Abortion Ban
Amended lawsuit aims to keep abortion legal in North Dakota, arguing new legislation passed in 2023 is unconstitutional
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 13, 2023
Gabbi Pierce, Communications Manager
The Center for Reproductive Rights, Gender Justice, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, have filed an amended complaint in Access Independent Health Services, Inc., d/b/a Red River Women’s Clinic v. Drew H. Wrigley, a 2022 lawsuit against North Dakota’s “trigger ban” (N.D.C.C. 12.1-31-12).
The amended complaint filed yesterday seeks to block an extreme new abortion ban, SB 2150, passed by the North Dakota legislature and signed into law by Governor Doug Burgum in April 2023. The new abortion ban replaces North Dakota’s “trigger ban,” but flagrantly violates the North Dakota constitution.
“Extreme anti-abortion politicians in the North Dakota legislature want to totally ban abortion across the state at all costs and will throw out our own state’s constitution to do so,” said Christina Sambor, North Dakota State Director at Gender Justice. “Just six weeks prior to the ban being signed into law, the North Dakota Supreme Court recognized that our state constitution protects the right to obtain an abortion in life-saving and health-preserving cases. Extremists in our legislature were undeterred, and continue their efforts to invade our most personal decisions and disregard women’s health.”
The new law’s exceptions for when healthcare practitioners can provide abortion care are not only exceedingly limited, but are vague and create legal uncertainty that have a chilling effect on healthcare across the state. The complaint filed yesterday, on behalf of healthcare providers, asks the court to vacate the new abortion ban.
“North Dakota officials have proven that they will stop at nothing to take away access to essential healthcare, even defying the state’s highest court to do so,” said Meetra Mehdizadeh, Staff Attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “This extreme law does nothing to protect people’s health. Instead, it has trapped healthcare providers between a rock and a hard place—uncertain over when they can provide abortion care and fearful that they could face punishment if they do. We have seen how these laws have wreaked havoc on people’s lives across the country, and are urging the court to put a stop to these harms.”
In July 2022, the Center for Reproductive Rights and its partners filed a lawsuit on behalf of abortion providers against North Dakota’s “trigger ban.”
On March 16, 2023, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that the state’s total abortion ban or “trigger ban” will remain blocked, allowing abortion care to continue while the lawsuit Access Independent Health Services, Inc., d/b/a Red River Women’s Clinic v. Drew H. Wrigley proceeds in a lower court. In its ruling in Wrigley v. Romanick et al., the North Dakota Supreme Court found that the challenge to the ban is likely to succeed.
The court’s ruling states:
- “The North Dakota Constitution explicitly provides all citizens of North Dakota the right of enjoying and defending life and pursuing and obtaining safety. These rights implicitly include the right to obtain an abortion to preserve the woman’s life or health.”
- “North Dakota’s history and traditions, as well as the plain language of its Constitution, establish that the right of a woman to receive an abortion to preserve her life or health was implicit in North Dakota’s concept of ordered liberty before, during, and at the time of statehood… it is clear the citizens of North Dakota have a right to enjoy and defend life and a right to pursue and obtain safety, which necessarily includes a pregnant woman has a fundamental right to obtain an abortion to preserve her life or her health.”
In April 2023, the North Dakota Legislature passed a new law that bans all abortions with narrow exceptions including cases of ectopic or molar pregnancy, cases where the life of the mother is endangered, or cases where a pregnancy that results from rape or incest is discovered in the first six weeks of pregnancy.