N.D. Supreme Court Hears Arguments Over State Medication Abortion Law

December 13, 2013 — On Wednesday, the North Dakota Supreme Court heard opening arguments over whether a 2011 state law prohibiting the use of a medication abortion drug is unconstitutional, the AP/Huffington Post reports (MacPherson, AP/Huffington Post, 12/11).

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 blocked the law while the suit proceeded, and in July he struck it down as unconstitutional.

The law mandates that any drug used to induce abortion must meet FDA protocols and that its label for use in abortion care. The law barred 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, 7/16).

According to Red River Women's Clinic Director Tammi Kromenaker, about 20% of 1,300 abortions the clinic performs annually are medication abortions.

Wednesday's Arguments

In an hour-long hearing on Wednesday, state Assistant Attorney General Douglas Bahr said the state constitution does not guarantee women the right to abortion.

Meanwhile, an attorney for the Red River Women's Clinic said that the state's Supreme Court has always recognized that the state constitution at minimum provides women the same protections as the U.S. Constitution. CRR staff attorney Autumn Katz said the law "violates a woman's right to equal protection and a doctor's right to equal protection."

Attorneys for the clinic have also noted that the lawsuit is similar to a case in Oklahoma, where the state Supreme Court ruled that a law restricting medication abortion was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed an appeal of the Oklahoma case in November (AP/Huffington Post, 12/11).