Cass County judge blocks N.D.'s admitting privileges abortion lawA Cass County judge has blocked enforcement of a North Dakota law set to go into effect Thursday that officials at the state’s only abortion clinic say would force them to close.
FARGO – A Cass County judge has blocked enforcement of a North Dakota law set to go into effect Thursday that officials at the state’s only abortion clinic say would force them to close.
As approved by the state Legislature in March, the law would require physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. The Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing the Red River Woman’s Clinic in Fargo, claims the requirement is unconstitutional.
In a 1 p.m. hearing today, Cass County District Court Judge Wickham Corwin considered a request by the clinic’s attorneys to place a temporary injunction on enforcing the law until he rules on whether the law is constitutional.
According to a news release from the Center for Reproductive Rights, Corwin has temporarily blocked the law.
The Red River Women’s Clinic has three hospitals within a 30-mile radius, all in Fargo: Sanford Medical Center, Essentia Health and the Veterans Affairs Health Care System. In court documents, the clinic says it has tried to comply with the law’s requirements, but it believes none of its physicians will be able to obtain admitting privileges at any of the three.
Clinic director Tammi Kromenaker has said that Sanford requires a doctor to admit a certain number of patients each year to gain privileges. At the VA Medical Center, patients must be veterans. Essentia has a Catholic affiliation and does not grant privileges to abortion providers, Reuters has reported.
Any physician who fails to comply with the admitting privileges requirement could be prosecuted for a Class A misdemeanor punishable upon conviction by up to one year in prison and a $3,000 fine.
The admitting privileges law is one of four new regulations state lawmakers approved earlier this year.
The most stringent – a first-in-the-nation ban on an abortion if a fetal heartbeat can be detected – could bar abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. A federal judge has blocked enforcement of that law, calling it a “clearly” unconstitutional restriction.
The other two laws set to go into effect Thursday will outlaw having an abortion because a fetus has a genetic defect and after 20 weeks into a pregnancy.