Judge hears arguments on lawsuit over North Dakota abortion ban

North Dakota District Court
North Dakota District Court(KFYR-TV)
Published: Aug. 19, 2022 at 2:38 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Attorneys for the Red River Women’s Clinic are asking a North Dakota judge to issue a preliminary injunction to block the state’s abortion ban.

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley certified North Dakota’s trigger law that would effectively make abortion illegal. The Red River Women’s Clinic, the state’s only abortion clinic, challenged the ban and sued.

Now, South Central District Court Judge Bruce Romanick is considering postponing the law from taking effect until the case is decided.

“Obviously, we’re not going to resolve this case here today. We’re simply here to argue the injunction portion of the matter,” said Judge Bruce Romanick.

Lauren Bernstein, an attorney for the Red River Women’s Clinic, argues for an injunction. She says it is necessary to prevent irreputable harm to patients and doctors.

“Doctors will need to balance the risk of jailtime with safeguarding patient’s health,” said Bernstein.

She adds that states with similar bans have already seen the impact, citing a Texas case where a doctor wouldn’t perform an abortion while a woman was suffering a miscarriage.

Defense attorney Matt Sagsveen says due to the broad language of the state constitution, abortion is not a fundamental right. He says the will of the public was expressed through the legislature 15 years ago with the 2007 trigger law.

“Importantly, these concurring opinions recognize North Dakota’s long-standing history of prohibiting abortion, except to preserve a woman’s life,” said Sagsveen.

Sagsveen also said the abortion law is not a total ban on the practice because there are affirmative defenses. Judge Romanick responded to the potential legal impact.

“The only way to resolve this is to go to trial with your affirmative defense. So now the physician, once he -- I just want to be clear that’s how I view this statute,” said Judge Romanick.

Judge Romanick also questioned the lawsuit’s relevance since the clinic moved to Moorhead, Minnesota.

“The state seeks to strip that access with what we’ve deemed an unconstitutional statute. And this remains the case despite the clinic’s move to Moorhead,” said Luna Barrington, attorney for the clinic.

No decision was made. If the injunction is granted, the clinic will continue to operate in North Dakota while the case proceeds.

Judge Romanick says he will make a decision by Friday, August 26. That is the day that the abortion law is set to go into effect.

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