Overturning of Texas abortion law could revive challenge to N.D. law
BISMARCK - A U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday striking down a Texas law that required abortion clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital could revive a legal challenge to a similar law already in place in North Dakota.
BISMARCK – A U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday striking down a Texas law that required abortion clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital could revive a legal challenge to a similar law already in place in North Dakota.
The challenge to the Republican-backed Texas law focused in part on a provision that would have required abortion clinics to meet the same minimum standards as ambulatory surgical centers, which opponents argued would require costly upgrades as a back-door attempt to shut down abortion clinics.
A separate section of the 2013 law required abortion clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital no more than 30 miles away.
“We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes. Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access … and each violates the Federal Constitution,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the majority in the 5-3 ruling in the case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
North Dakota lawmakers also passed a bill in 2013 requiring abortion clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles – one of several abortion-limiting bills approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple that year.
The Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo filed a lawsuit challenging the law as a violation of the state’s constitution and criticizing it as an attempt to shutter the state’s only abortion clinic.
A judge temporarily blocked the law from taking effect pending the outcome of the lawsuit. The state appealed to the North Dakota Supreme Court, but the lawsuit was dismissed in early 2014 after Sanford Health granted admitting privileges to the out-of-state doctors who perform abortions at the clinic. The clinic agreed to comply with the requirement as long as the law remains in effect.
Clinic director Tammi Kromenaker recently told The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, “If we have an opportunity to repeal, or take a look at the admitting privileges law that was passed in North Dakota (in 2013), we certainly will look at that closely.” Kromenaker could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.
David Brown, an attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, previously told Forum News Service that a U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the Texas law wouldn’t automatically nullify North Dakota’s admitting privileges law, but it “would certainly be open to some kind of challenge.”
The center’s president and CEO, Nancy Northup, said in a statement that Monday’s ruling vindicates the constitutional rights of women.
“The Supreme Court sent a loud and clear message that politicians cannot use deceptive means to shut down abortion clinics,” she said.
Renee Stromme, executive director of the North Dakota Women’s Network, said in a statement that Monday’s ruling impacts North Dakota.
“With this ruling, the legislative threats to close the one clinic in our state and efforts by politicians to deny women their constitutional right to abortion is reduced,” she said.
By Mike Nowatzki, Forum News Service