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State Supreme Court hears case on North Dakota's 'trigger' abortion law

North Dakota Supreme Court
North Dakota Supreme Court

The North Dakota Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday (11-29-22) on whether or not to lift a preliminary injunction against North Dakota’s abortion trigger law.

The law prohibits abortion. However, it does have some exceptions — for rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger — but it is up to the doctor performing the abortion to prove that those conditions exist.

District Judge Bruce Romanick issued a preliminary injunction, saying the plaintiff — the Red River Women’s Clinic — had a ‘substantial probability’ of succeeding, and the case needed to be settled on its merits. The Clinic argues the state’s Constitution provides a right to abortion. But state Solicitor General Matthew Sagsveen argued that’s not the case.

"The state legislature has provided, in the enacted law, situations where an abortion is allowed," Sagsveen told the Court. "In this case, 12.1.31-12 does not violate the Constitution, and it should be upheld by the District Court."

Meetra Mehdizadeh, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, argued for the Clinic. And she told the Court the “trigger law” sets an unfair burden for doctors and other health care givers.

"The limited affirmative defenses the Legislature included in the statute put an unreasonable burden on doctors, to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that every procedure they provide in an emergency comports with the law," Mehdizadeh told the Court. "But the law is untethered from any understanding on how medicine is actually practiced, and flies in the face of fundamental principles of medical ethics."

Mehdizadeh argues that those delays could mean more expensive procedures, as well as threats to the health of the mother.

The High Court will hand down a decision later.

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