North Dakota's only abortion clinic hopes lawsuit will give more time for move across state line
Performing an abortion in most cases will become illegal in North Dakota on July 28, unless a judge steps in.
FARGO — The director of the Red River Women's Clinic is hoping a judge will push back North Dakota's impending abortion ban, which would allow the procedures to continue in Fargo until a new facility in Moorhead is ready to open.
In 2007, the North Dakota Legislature passed a "trigger" bill that would ban abortion in the state within 30 days if the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
Attorney General Drew Wrigley set off the 30-day countdown last month by certifying that the high court allowed states to prohibit abortion in a major June decision. Performing an abortion in most cases is set to become illegal on Thursday, July 28.
The Red River Women's Clinic, the state's lone abortion provider, filed a lawsuit earlier this month against Wrigley and Cass County State's Attorney Birch Burdick alleging the abortion ban would infringe on North Dakotans' rights to life, liberty, safety and happiness guaranteed by the state constitution.
The lawsuit also alleges Wrigley jumped the gun by requiring the clinic to close before the Supreme Court issues a formal judgment to a lower court — a step that takes 25 days or more.
Clinic director Tammi Kromenaker told Forum News Service she's hoping Burleigh County District Judge Bruce Romanick will place an injunction on the abortion ban before July 28, delaying the effective date.
Kromenaker said the clinic plans to move across the Minnesota border into Moorhead where the procedure is likely to remain legal, but the Moorhead facility is not yet ready.
Materials need to be acquired and construction needs to be done to prepare the clinic, Kromenaker said without offering specific details. She declined to estimate when the Moorhead clinic could open. The clinic has received more than $950,000 in donations via an online fundraiser.
Kromenaker refused to say where the Moorhead clinic will be located, noting that an arsonist set fire to a new Wyoming abortion clinic opened by a friend of hers in May.
A 20-page response to the clinic's lawsuit was filed Tuesday. In the response, attorneys for Wrigley argued the North Dakota Supreme Court already ruled in 2014 that the state constitution does not contain a fundamental right to abortion.
Lawyers representing Wrigley and Burdick argue the clinic doesn't meet the high standard for granting an injunction and asked the judge to toss the case.
Most of the clinic's 14 attorneys are based in New York, either with the Center for Reproductive Rights or the Weil, Gotshal and Manges law firm, which is working on the case pro bono.
Wrigley is represented by Solicitor General Matthew Sagsveen and Assistant Attorney General Courtney Titus. Burdick is represented by attorneys from the Bismarck-based Smith Porsborg law firm, who were hired through the North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund.
Kromenaker said the Fargo clinic will continue seeing patients until the abortion ban goes into effect.