Judge Blocks N.D. Admitting Privileges Law From Taking Effect
August 1, 2013 — A North Dakota judge on Wednesday issued a preliminary injunction against a state law (SB 2305) that would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, Bloomberg reports.
The ruling is the second to halt enforcement of new antiabortion-rights laws in the state, after a federal judge earlier last month temporarily blocked a measure (HB 1456) that would have banned abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detectable (Harris, Bloomberg, 7/31).
Wednesday's ruling comes in a lawsuit filed in May by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the Red River Women's Clinic of Fargo. CRR argued in its challenge that the measure poses an unconstitutional infringement on a woman's right to an abortion, noting that the law's "purpose is to shut down the clinic, the sole abortion facility in the state."
Red River Director Tammi Kromenaker had pointed out that 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 -- were unlikely to grant admitting privileges to the clinic's doctors (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/16).
The law was scheduled to take effect on Aug. 1.
In his ruling, Judge Wickham Corwin wrote, "As RRWC provides its physicians with the appropriate staff and facilities, there is obviously no need for a legislative mandate that each of those physicians be credentialed to also perform abortions at a local hospital" (Bloomberg, 7/31).
He explained that the "existing record clearly fails to suggest any need for the requirements imposed in SB 2305," adding that all of the abortions performed at Red River "are completed long before the fetus becomes viable (and) are extremely safe and effective."
"It is hard to envision how a compelling need for state regulation could ever exist," he continued, noting that early abortions "are relatively simple procedures, performed on an outpatient basis" (Hassan/Botelho, CNN, 7/31).
Response to Ruling
Bebe Anderson -- director of CRR's legal program -- said in a statement, "Today's decision ensures that North Dakota's only abortion clinic can keep its doors open to the many women it provides critical health care to every year" (Bloomberg, 7/31).
Kromenaker added, "The judge clearly stated that these attempts to contrive safety concerns continue to be wrong-headed, and that the (North Dakota) constitution does include protections for women seeking abortions" (CNN, 7/31).
Liz Brocker -- press secretary for North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem (R) -- did not immediately comment on the decision (Bloomberg, 7/31).