Legal /

North Dakota Asks Court to Lift Injunction Blocking Abortion Ban

'Abortion isn’t a fundamental right protected by the constitution' said attorney Matthew Sagsveen on behalf of the state

An attorney representing the government of North Dakota has requested the state’s Supreme Court to end an injunction that prevents the state’s abortion restrictions from going into effect.

Attorney Matthew Sagsveen argued that the Burleigh County District judge who issues the injunction in September “misconstrued the law.”

“Abortion isn’t a fundamental right protected by the constitution,” Sagsveen told the five justices on Nov. 29 during oral arguments.

Under North Dakota’s abortion law, anyone who performs an abortion outside of limited circumstances can be charged with a felony. Exceptions include saving the life of the mother or if the pregnancy was conceived through rape or incest.

Those in violation can be fined up to $10,000 and can be sentenced to five years in prison.

On Oct. 31, Judge Bruce Romanick said his injunction would remain in effect as he felt there was “substantial probability” that the law would successfully be challenged on constitutional grounds.

He previously rejected North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley’s request to let the law remain in effect while an abortion clinic’s lawsuit was heard.

The Red River Women’s Clinic of Fargo, the state’s only abortion clinic, closed and moved its operation to Minnesota pending its challenge to the ban. The clinic filed a challenge to the 2007 law in June after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade – returning the power to regulate abortions to the individual states, per AP News

Wrigley’s office issued a 20-page responding opinion arguing that Romanick’s decision was a mistake because there was no “clear and obvious” indication that abortion is prohibited by the state constitution. Wrigley argued the judge would need to find that North Dakota’s constitution protects abortion to rule in favor of the clinic. 

“Such leaps in analysis do not appear to be the product of a rational mental process leading to a reasoned determination,” read the opinion, per KFYR-TV. “The district court’s determination on this issue is diminished and unsupported by its own analysis and admission that the ‘answer to whether the Statute is constitutional is not obvious.’”

After hearing arguments, North Dakota Chief Justice Jon Jensen said the case would be taken “under advisement.” It is not clear when a ruling can be expected. 

LifeNews estimates that “approximately 1,100 unborn babies are aborted in North Dakota every year.” 

The Guttmacher Institute reports that the state’s abortion rate declined by 9% between 2014 and 2017. 

“In 2017, some 98% of North Dakota counties had no clinics that provided abortions, and 72% of North Dakota women lived in those counties,” according to the Institute, which notes that 89% of counties in the United States did not have an abortion clinic during the same year.

In addition to North Dakota, eight other states are legally battling to enforce restrictions on abortion.

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