ND clinic wants rehearing on medication abortions

AP News
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Posted: Nov 13, 2014 2:04 PM
ND clinic wants rehearing on medication abortions

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Lawyers for North Dakota's lone abortion clinic in Fargo are asking the state Supreme Court to clarify a portion of a recent ruling that limits the use of pregnancy-terminating drugs.

In a divided decision released Oct. 28, the five-member North Dakota Supreme Court said the 2011 state law that bars the use of one of two drugs used by the clinic in medication abortions didn't violate the North Dakota Constitution.

The court wrote that the law was not an outright ban on all medication abortions, but the Red River Women's Clinic argues that the law's "practical effect" is a ban because the procedure cannot be performed without both drugs.

Attorneys for the clinic, which is represented by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, filed a petition for rehearing on Wednesday to "resolve any lingering ambiguity."

The clinic's director halted medication abortions one day after the high court's ruling, saying she didn't want to risk legal action, though surgical abortions are still being provided.

Center for Reproductive Rights spokeswoman Jennifer Miller said in an email Thursday morning that the group had not received confirmation of whether the high court had accepted the petition.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, whose office represents the state in legal matters, did not immediately return telephone calls on Thursday.

Medication abortions at the Red River Women's Clinic involve the use of two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol. The Federal Food and Drug Administration has approved the marketing of mifepristone — commonly known as RU-486 — as a drug for ending pregnancies. It is used in combination with misoprostol, a treatment for stomach ulcers that is not labeled as an abortion-inducing drug.

Because misoprostol is not labeled as an abortion-inducing drug, North Dakota law prohibits its use for that purpose.

The clinic has testified that the use of misoprostol is a widely accepted medical practice.

Clinic lawyers also are asking the Supreme Court to clarify whether an abortion doctor who has hospital-admitting privileges within 30 miles of an abortion clinic can enter into a contract with another physician to handle emergencies associated with the use of an abortion-inducing drug.