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North Dakota Law May Shutter State's Last Abortion Clinic

February 27, 2013 03:43pm  
North Dakota Law May Shutter State's Last Abortion Clinic


The State of North Dakota angered reproductive rights advocates last week after passing several new laws designed to curtail abortion in the state.  Currently, the state of North Dakota is one of several in the United States that has only one abortion clinic remaining.  Abortion rights advocates warn that the sole abortion clinic in North Dakota, the Red River Women's Clinic, may be forced to shutter as a result of the new laws.

The first of the laws is referred to as a TRAP—targeted regulation of abortion providers—law.  In the last several years, TRAP laws have been extremely successful at shutting down abortion clinics in many states and making it much more expensive and difficult for other clinics to do business.

According to the law, in order for a doctor to perform abortions in the state of North Dakota, they will be required to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.  Because of intimidation and threats, abortion providers at the Red River Women's Clinic currently fly to the clinic from other states.  For this reason, it is unlikely that these doctors would be able to get admitting privileges.

The Red River Women's Clinic is located in Fargo, blocks from the Minnesota border.  If the clinic shuts down, the nearest abortion clinic for women in Fargo will be in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, nearly four hours away.  The other two nearest clinics are in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, also several hours away, and in Montana, even further.

While legal experts say that the law may be struck down by the courts, the state legislature declined to earmark any money for defending itself against the inevitable lawsuits begun by the Red River Women's Clinic and women's rights organizations.

In addition to the TRAP law, the North Dakota legislature also passed a bill putting a personhood amendment on the ballot in the next general election.  Personhood amendments to state constitutions are extremely controversial because they purport to give even a newly fertilized egg equivalent rights to full-grown adults.

Voters in North Dakota have previously struck down similar amendments.  Public opinion polls in the United States show a renewed surge of support for reproductive rights after a bitter election season that saw a number of prominent conservatives making gaffes over issues involving rape, pregnancy, and abortion.  Since North Dakota has previously rejected a personhood amendment, it's likely that the referendum could be a tough sell to the state's voters.



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