Sole N.D. Abortion Clinic Sues Over Hospital Admitting Privileges Law

May 16, 2013 — The Center for Reproductive Rights on Wednesday filed a lawsuit on behalf of North Dakota's only abortion clinic to challenge a state law (HB 2305) requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

The law is one of four antiabortion-rights measures signed this year by North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) (Kolpack, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 5/16). The other laws include a measure (HB 1456) prohibiting abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detectable with a transvaginal ultrasound, which can be as early as six weeks; a ban (HB 1305) on abortions sought because of the sex of the fetus or genetic defects; and a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/17).

CRR has said it plans to challenge the six-week law by Aug. 1 (Eckholm, New York Times, 5/15). The group already is challenging an older state law that restricts medication abortion.

The admitting privileges law is scheduled to take effect on Aug. 1 (Harris, Bloomberg, 5/15).

Details of Lawsuit

CRR filed the new suit in a state district court, arguing that the law poses an unconstitutional infringement on a woman's right to an abortion. The suit claims that the law's "purpose is to shut down the clinic, the sole abortion facility in the state."

Tammi Kromenaker -- director of the facility, Red River Women's Clinic -- said the clinic relies on doctors who are licensed in North Dakota but fly in from out of state to provide abortions. The three area hospitals -- a veteran's hospital, a facility affiliated with the Catholic Church and one that requires doctors to admit at least five patients annually to have privileges -- are not likely to grant admitting privileges to the clinic's doctors.

"A doctor who had to admit five abortion patients a year would not be working in this clinic," she said, adding that since the clinic opened in 1998, only one patient has required ambulance transport to a hospital. The clinic would take any woman who developed complications to a hospital, regardless of whether the doctor had admitting privileges, she said (New York Times, 5/15).

Response to Filing

State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem (R) said Wednesday that he had not yet read CRR's complaint, but he acknowledged it is a "significant case" and said he would "zealously advocate" for the state in response to the lawsuit.

CRR President and CEO Nancy Northup in a statement said North Dakota lawmakers "have effectively told the women of their state, 'We don't care about your health, we don't care about your safety, and we sure don't care about your constitutional and human rights." CRR added that it would "soon" challenge the other antiabortion measures (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 5/16).