In April of this year, North Dakota Judge Wickham Corwin levied an injunction at a law banning a drug used in nonsurgical abortions. Corwin combined the lawsuit against this 2011 law with a law passed earlier this year requiring doctors who perform abortions to obtain hospital-admitting privileges. Yesterday, Corwin officially overruled both laws, writing, “no compelling state interest justifies this infringement,” in his lengthy 58-page ruling.
Shortly after the ruling, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem announced his plans to appeal the ruling, bringing the case to the North Dakota Supreme Court.
"This should be ruled on not by one trial judge but by the North Dakota Supreme Court,” Stenehjem said. “That's only appropriate." Proponents of both abortion restrictions argue the laws are distinct and should be treated separately.
However, many states are successfully passing bills that indirectly inhibit abortions with more strenuous requirements or specific procedures. The Texas Senate just passed a similar bill banning abortions past 20 weeks of gestation, restricts usage of key drug RU486 and requires abortion clinics become ambulatory surgical centers. The bill would effectively close most clinics in Texas. It is difficult to distinguish whether these measures are for safety or merely act as a fig leaf for the incremental elimination of abortion.
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The Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the original lawsuit, has many others filed in order to challenge state restrictions on abortion. The center is currently fighting a measure to ban abortions past week 6 of gestation, when the fetus’ heartbeat can be detected. North Dakota is the first state to pass a measure prohibiting abortion solely because the fetus has a mental disorder. The center plans to challenge this measure as well.
A hearing is set for July 31.