North Dakota court to reconsider temporarily blocking abortion law that restricts physicians.

 A North Dakota judge said Wednesday he will soon determine whether to temporarily halt part of the state's amended abortion rules so physicians can save a patient's life.

The preliminary injunction request asks state District Court Judge Bruce Romanick to bar the state from enforcing the law against physicians who use their “good-faith medical judgment” to perform an abortion due to pregnancy complications that could pose “a risk of infection, hemorrhage, high blood pressure, or which otherwise makes continuing a pregnancy unsafe.”

Abortions are illegal in North Dakota unless in circumstances of death or “serious health risk.” Abortion providers might be prosecuted with a crime, but patients would not.

For fear of prosecution, doctors “feel like they must delay offering abortions to their patients until the patients’ health has declined to the point where other physicians could not plausibly disagree that it was necessary to provide an abortion,” Center for Reproductive Rights attorney Meetra Mehdizadeh said.

“Patients and physicians have suffered significant harm,” she added. “For patients, the denial of their constitutional rights and forced additional health risks; and for physicians, the possibility of criminal prosecution every time they treat a medical complication.

The state's updated abortion regulations exempt rape and incest pregnancies in the first six weeks, when most women are unaware they are pregnant. Ectopic and molar pregnancies, which are unviable, can be treated.

The plaintiffs' “seven-month delay” in seeking a preliminary injunction concerned Special Assistant Attorney General Dan Gaustad, who contested the “good-faith medical judgment” phrase. He told the judge the plaintiffs want him “to modify and rewrite the statute under the guise of a preliminary injunction.” The legislation employs "reasonable medical judgment."

After the Supreme Court's Dobbs judgment reversed Roe v. Wade's 1973 decision guaranteeing abortion rights statewide, the Red River Women's Clinic sued the state last year. The case declared the state's trigger prohibition unlawful, which would take effect immediately if Roe v. Wade was reversed. The clinic moved from Fargo to abortion-friendly Moorhead.

Last year, the court issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the prohibition, which the state Supreme Court affirmed in March.

In the March decision, Chief Justice Jon Jensen wrote that “it is clear the citizens of North Dakota have a right to enjoy and defend life and a right to pursue and obtain safety, which necessarily includes a pregnant woman has a fundamental right to obtain an abortion to preserve her life or her health

Soon after, North Dakota's Republican-controlled Legislature enacted an abortion law reform measure that Gov. Doug Burgum signed in April. Several obstetricians, gynecologists, and maternal-fetal medicine doctors joined the clinic in filing an updated case in June. August 2024 will see a jury trial.

Continue to monitor this space for any new updates.