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Abortion to become illegal in North Dakota following Supreme Court decision

The North Dakota Legislature passed a "trigger" law in 2007 that would ban abortion in the state within 30 days if the Supreme Court ever overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

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The Red River Women’s Clinic, North Dakota's lone abortion provider, is pictured May 3, 2022, in downtown Fargo.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum
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BISMARCK — Abortion is set to become illegal in North Dakota after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision on Friday, June 24.

The justices of the nation’s highest court ruled in a long-expected 6-3 decision that abortion is not a constitutional right and states can prohibit procedures that deliberately aim to end pregnancies before they are brought to term.

The North Dakota Legislature passed a "trigger" law in 2007 that would ban abortion in the state within 30 days if the Supreme Court ever changed direction on the controversial procedure. To start the 30-day countdown, Attorney General Drew Wrigley must certify that the Supreme Court has allowed states to ban abortion.

Once officially implemented, the state law will make it a Class C felony for anyone to perform an abortion, unless a pregnant female performs an abortion on herself. A Class C felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

There are exceptions to the abortion ban if the mother's life is in danger and in cases of rape or incest.

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A statement from Wrigley said his office is reviewing Friday's decision to determine its impact on North Dakota's laws.

Wrigley told Forum News Service in May that local state's attorneys would be charged with prosecuting violations of the abortion ban, but special prosecutors from his office would also have jurisdiction.

The Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo is North Dakota's lone abortion provider. The clinic performed 1,171 abortions in 2020, including 833 on North Dakota residents.

Clinic Director Tammi Kromenaker said in a statement Friday that the Supreme Court's decision took an "extreme step" in stripping fundamental constitutional rights from the American people.

Kromenaker said the clinic will continue to operate in Moorhead with little to no disruption in abortion services, though she declined to disclose the location of the new clinic. In previous interviews, she has called Minnesota "less hostile" to abortion rights .

"We will continue to fulfill our mission of providing the quality reproductive healthcare that every person seeking care should have," Kromenaker said. "Our patients deserve nothing less.”

Kromenaker added that patients should know abortion is still legal in North Dakota until the trigger law takes effect.

A dozen other states have similar trigger laws, including South Dakota, Texas, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming.

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The Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights research organization, estimated a total of 26 states, including Montana, are "certain or likely" to ban abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

A divisive decision

Prominent North Dakota political figures on both sides of the abortion issue began to chime in on the Supreme Court’s decision Friday.

Republican Gov. Doug Burgum applauded the decision in a statement, saying it marks "a victory for the many North Dakotans who have fought so hard and for so long to protect the unborn in our state."

Burgum added that "we must now turn to prioritizing women’s health, including expectant mothers and children in need.”

U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., called the majority opinion "one of the most consequential decisions in my lifetime."

"In the last 50 years since the Roe v. Wade decision, millions of helpless babies have been murdered," Cramer said in a statement. "Countless lives will now be saved and the fundamental principle of federalism is restored."

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said the decision "rightfully denies that the Constitution provided a right to abortion."

U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., said he's glad states will be able to deal with the issue of abortion as they see fit. He added that he's "proud to defend the right to life and liberty for every American, born and unborn."

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State Rep. Karla Rose Hanson, D-Fargo, slammed the decision and called North Dakota's impending abortion ban "yet another example of Republican overreach."

"People should be able to make deeply personal decisions about when and whether to have a family without interference from lawmakers," Hanson said in a statement.

Katrina Christiansen, a Democrat running against Hoeven, said the decision is "meant to restrict women's rights under a set of religious beliefs paraded as constitutional."

Mark Haugen, a Democrat running against Armstrong, indicated in a statement that he is anti-abortion, but he painted his Republican opponent as failing to support children through federal programs.

"The difference between Rep. Armstrong and I is that I believe in quality of life for the entire duration of life, not merely up until they are born," Haugen said.

Socially conservative North Dakota lawmakers have a recent history of passing strict anti-abortion laws, many of which were shot down by courts after costly legal battles.

The Red River clinic successfully sued North Dakota in 2013 after lawmakers passed the nation's first bill banning abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. The Supreme Court declined to take the case, effectively upholding lower courts' decisions to block the law from going into effect.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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