N.D. Medication Abortion Law Challenged in Court

July 19, 2011 — The Center for Reproductive Rights on Monday filed a lawsuit seeking to block a North Dakota law that would prevent the state's only abortion clinic from providing medication abortion by banning the use of misoprostol, one of the two drugs used in medication abortion, the AP/Grand Forks Herald reports. The law is set to take effect Aug. 1.

The new law mandates that any drug used to induce abortion must be "protocol tested and authorized" by FDA and must have the use of abortion care listed on the label. The lawsuit argues that FDA does not test or authorize drug protocols.

Misoprostol is not approved to induce abortion because the drug is used in combination with mifepristone, which is approved for abortion care, the suit states. Suzanne Novak, senior staff attorney for CRR, said that using misoprostol for medication abortion is common and safe. According to the suit, the law "reflects an animus towards abortion, physicians who perform abortions and women who obtain abortions," adding, "Its purpose is to burden and reduce access to abortions in North Dakota."

The Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo is the state's sole abortion provider. Physicians last year performed about 1,300 abortions, 260 of which were medication abortion procedures.

The state attorney general was not available for comment, a spokesperson said. Christopher Dodson, an attorney who is director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, said the drugs have killed more than 12 women, adding, "What they're challenging is actually a law that was designed to protect women. It wasn't meant to ban abortion or eliminate abortion" (Wetzel, AP/Grand Forks Herald, 7/18).