Judge dismisses part of N. Dakota abortion lawsuit

AP News
Posted: Sep 11, 2013 3:49 PM

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed part of a lawsuit challenging a new North Dakota law that blocks abortions based on unwanted gender or a genetic defect, such as Down syndrome.

The state's sole abortion clinic in Fargo, backed by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, filed the lawsuit in June. That suit also challenges another new measure that bans abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected; it was temporarily blocked in July.

The measures are among four Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed into law this year with overwhelming support by the state's Republican-led Legislature.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland granted the Red River Women's Clinic request to drop the gender and genetic defects part of the lawsuit on Monday. The clinic has said the ban doesn't affect it because it doesn't perform abortions for that reason.

Hovland dismissed that portion of the lawsuit without prejudice, meaning the clinic can revive a legal challenge later.

Janet Crepps, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement that "it is not clear that the measure will have a direct impact on any women seeking abortion services at the Red River Women's Clinic at this time."

The Bismarck-based federal judge temporarily blocked the state's law that bans abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected — as early as six weeks into pregnancy — calling it "clearly invalid and unconstitutional."

Abortion rights advocates call the heartbeat law the most restrictive in the country and an attempt to shutter Red River Women's Clinic. Supporters of the measure have said it's a challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 ruling that legalized abortion up until a fetus is considered viable, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.

The clinic is not challenging another new North Dakota law that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain by then. Clinic officials have said the law does not apply because it doesn't perform abortions after 16 weeks.

Another new law requires a doctor who performs abortions to be a physician with hospital admitting privileges. A lawsuit challenging that measure has been combined with another one challenging a 2011 North Dakota law outlawing one of two drugs used in nonsurgical abortions. East Central Judge Wickham Corwin ruled in July that the 2011 law violates the state and U.S. constitutions.

Corwin also signed a preliminary injunction in July blocking admitting-privileges law after opponents argued it would shut down the Fargo clinic.


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