Abortion rights group challenges N.D. lawA lawsuit filed Monday by a women’s reproductive rights group challenges a North Dakota Law the group says will ban medication abortions. The Center for Reproductive Rights hopes the law can be blocked from taking effect Aug. 1.
By: By Dale Wetzel, The Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — A lawsuit filed Monday by a women’s reproductive rights group challenges a North Dakota Law the group says will ban medication abortions.
The Center for Reproductive Rights hopes the law can be blocked from taking effect Aug. 1.
The lawsuit says the new law would prevent doctors from using misoprostol, one of two drugs that are administered in combination to induce abortions, because it’s labeled for treatment of stomach ulcers.
The suit was filed Monday in state district court in Fargo, where the Red River Women’s Clinic is located. The clinic is North Dakota’s only abortion provider.
The suit also says the law’s poorly worded conditions may force North Dakota women to seek a surgical abortion even if drugs are a better option.
The law says the use of any drug to induce abortion must satisfy “the protocol tested and authorized” by the FDA, and outlined in the drug’s label.
The lawsuit says the FDA does not test or authorize drug protocols, and misoprostol is not labeled to induce abortions. The drugs mifeprex and misoprostol are used in combination for medication abortions, but only mifeprex is labeled for that purpose, the suit says.
Suzanne Novak, a senior staff attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, said “off-label” drug use such as administering misoprostol for abortions is common and that North Dakota law encourages it in other contexts. She said complications from medication abortions are rare.
The law “reflects an animus towards abortion, physicians who perform abortions and women who obtain abortions,” the lawsuit says. “Its purpose is to burden and reduce access to abortions in North Dakota.”
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem was not available to comment Monday, said spokeswoman Liz Brocker. The attorney general defends state laws against court challenges.
The law’s author, Representative Bette Grande, R-Fargo said the law is intended to make sure abortion providers are following procedure.
“It does not ban any medical abortions, it asks strictly that FDA law or regulation be enforced and followed. It’s pretty straight up standard,” Grande said. “The intent is that law be followed, that is what the intent of an abortion control act.”
Christopher Dodson, an attorney who is director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, said the drugs have killed more than a dozen women, and that the state law was intended only to ensure they are used according to federal Food and Drug Administration guidelines.
“What they’re challenging is actually a law that was designed to protect women. It wasn’t meant to ban abortion or to eliminate abortion,” Dodson said.
The Red River Women’s Clinic and its medical director, Dr. Kathryn Eggleston, are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Its defendants are Birch Burdick, the Cass County state’s attorney, and Dr. Terry Dwelle, the state health officer and chief administrator of North Dakota’s Department of Health.
The clinic performs abortions for women who are pregnant for up to 16 weeks, or 112 days, the lawsuit says. The clinic does medication abortions up to 63 days into a woman’s pregnancy.
Forum reporter Wendy Reuer contributed to this report.