North Dakota's lone abortion clinic challenges 'trigger' ban

The Red River Women's Clinic is pictured in downtown Fargo, North Dakota July 2, 2013. REUTERS/Dan Koeck
  • Lawsuit contends North Dakota's 2007 trigger law violates the state's constitution
  • North Dakota among 13 states with "trigger" laws

(Reuters) - North Dakota's lone abortion provider filed a lawsuit on Thursday seeking to block enforcement of the state's near-total ban on the procedure, set to take effect in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's reversal of its landmark 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade guaranteeing women the right to terminate pregnancies.

Red River Women's Clinic in a lawsuit filed in Burleigh County District Court challenged a so-called "trigger" law the state adopted in 2007 banning abortion that was designed to take effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion.

The law bars all abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to protect a pregnant woman's life and makes it a felony for doctors to perform the procedure in North Dakota. The clinic contends the law violates its patients' rights to life, safety and happiness under the state constitution.

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"We will fight this Draconian ban like the other outrageous bans and restrictions that came before it," Tammi Kromenaker, its director, said in a statement.

Republican Attorney General Drew Wrigley in a statement said his office is reviewing the complaint and will reserve further comment until the state formally responds to the lawsuit in court.

The state is one of 13 with trigger laws that were set to take effect if Roe were reversed, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights advocacy research group.

About half the states are expected to move to restrict or ban abortions after the conservative-majority Supreme Court on June 24 overturned the nearly 50-year precedent and allowed states to prevent women from terminating their pregnancies.

That decision has prompted a flurry of litigation in state courts challenging the bans that Republican-led states are rapidly adopting.

While courts in Kentucky, Louisiana and Utah have temporarily blocked bans from taking effect, restrictions and bans have been allowed to take effect in states including Mississippi, Texas and Florida.

In Thursday's complaint, Fargo-based Red River also argued that four days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, Wrigley wrongly certified that the trigger ban could take effect July 28.

The clinic said the law is only triggered once the U.S. Supreme Court issues its formal judgment, a document that it usually issues 25 days or more after an opinion.

The case is Access Independent Health Services, Inc., et al, v. Wrigley, et al, Burleigh County District Court, North Dakota, No. 08-2022-CV-01608.

For Red River Women's Clinic: Meetra Mehdizadeh of Center for Reproductive Rights, Caroline Zalka of Weil, Gotshal & Manges and Thomas Dickson of Dickson law Office

For the state: North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley

Read more:

Abortion bans in Florida, Mississippi allowed to take effect

Texas, Ohio top courts allow abortion bans to take effect

U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, ends constitutional right to abortion

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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.