March 17, 2014 — North Dakota and the sole abortion clinic in the state have resolved a dispute over a law (SB 2305) requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, and the facility will be able to continue operating, the Los Angeles Times' "Nation Now" reports (Muskal, "Nation Now," Los Angeles Times, 3/14).
In 2013, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit against the admitting privileges requirement on behalf of Red River Women's Clinic, arguing that the rule would effectively make abortion illegal in the state. State District Judge Wickham Corwin granted a preliminary injunction against the law in July, and the trial was originally slated to be heard in court in February. It was recently taken off the court docket amid settlement talks (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/14).
The clinic's lawsuit charged that its doctors would be unable to receive privileges at any local hospitals and that they would be required to admit a certain number of patients per year to maintain privileges at Sanford Health, a local hospital (Springer, Fargo-Moorhead Forum, 3/14).
In February, Sanford, based in Fargo, N.D., and Sioux Falls, S.D., said that it had extended admitting privileges to Red River Women's Clinic's three abortion providers (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/14).
Sanford will maintain admitting privileges for the clinic's physicians as long as they maintain certain training, education and certification requirements, although it will not permit them to perform abortions at the hospital.
As part of the agreement between the state and the clinic, the Red River physicians will need to maintain admitting privileges for as long as the law is in effect. Any new physicians joining the clinic will also have to obtain privileges in order to provide abortions (Fargo-Moorhead Forum, 3/14).
State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said Friday, "All of the clinic's physicians were able to comply with the requirements of the law by obtaining privileges at a local hospital," adding, "Because the grounds for suing the state no longer exist, that case is now moot."
Autumn Katz, a staff attorney with CRR, said, "We are pleased that the physicians at the Red River Women's Clinic have been able to obtain admitting privileges and reach a settlement with state officials, but the fact remains that this law's intention was to shutter the only abortion clinic in the state."
She added, "While the women of North Dakota can breathe a temporary sigh of relief that this particular underhanded law can no longer threaten safe and legal reproductive healthcare in their state, our court battles continue as we fight the other equally extreme efforts to ban abortion in the state" ("Nation Now," Los Angeles Times, 3/14).
Separately, North Dakota Right to Life Association Executive Director Devyn Nelson said, "We will continue to push forward and try to enact laws that protect the sanctity of life at all stages of development" (Fargo-Moorhead Forum, 3/14).