N.D. Attorney General Fights Effort To Expand Scope of Lawsuit
June 3, 2013 — The North Dakota attorney general's office on Wednesday said a district court judge should not add a supplemental complaint to a lawsuit challenging a 2011 state law that effectively bans medication abortion, the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reports (Jerke, Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, 5/29).
The law was set to take effect in August 2011, but the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Fargo-based Red River Women's Clinic, arguing that the law unconstitutionally restricts abortion access for women. North Dakota District Judge Wickham Corwin halted the law from taking effect while the suit proceeded, and in April 2012 he announced he would strike it down as unconstitutional.
The law mandates that any drug used to induce abortion must meet FDA protocols and that its label is intended for use in abortion care. The law would prohibit the use of misoprostol -- one of the two drugs used in medication abortions -- because the drug is labeled for the treatment of stomach ulcers (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/19).
CRR's Supplemental Complaint
CRR on May 15 filed a supplemental complaint in the suit to challenge a separate law (SB 2305) that requires physicians who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility (Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, 5/29). The law is scheduled to take effect on Aug. 1 (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/11).
In its filing, CRR argued that the new law is unconstitutional because it imposes medically unwarranted requirements on the clinic. The organization also said the law would infringe on a woman's right to an abortion since the facility -- the only abortion clinic in the state -- would be unable to meet the law's requirements and have to close.
CRR argued that it can add the complaint because the 2011 and 2013 laws relate to the same legal and factual matters.
Attorney General's Response
The state attorney general's office argued that the court should reject the complaint because it attempts to introduce a separate and new lawsuit, which would place prejudice against the state and unnecessarily impede the 2011 lawsuit.
"Granting the plaintiffs' motion will improperly and unnecessarily delay resolution of this case for months and possibly years while the parties conduct discovery, file motions, and prepare and attend trial regarding facts that are separate, distinct, and unrelated to the original cause of action," the response states.
Assistant Attorney General Douglas Anderson explained that the state "wants to get the [current] case resolved" so that it can bring the matter to the state Supreme Court.
The response also argued that the complaint "would be premature and may prove futile," since the supporters of the law currently are seeking to refer the matter to a statewide vote, which would mean "the other case may not need to be tried" (Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, 5/29).