District Court Judge considers granting injunction in abortion case

Published: Aug. 19, 2022 at 10:54 AM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - South Central District Court Judge Bruce Romanick is considering granting an injunction in a case involving North Dakota’s lone abortion clinic.

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley certified North Dakota’s trigger law that would effectively make abortion illegal. The Red River Women’s Clinic, the state’s sole abortion clinic, challenged the ban and sued.

In July, Judge Romanick temporarily paused the trigger law from taking effect July 28, ruling that the effective date was premature. The temporary pause gave the clinic time to move from Fargo across the river to Moorhead, Minnesota, where abortion remains legal.

After an injunction hearing Friday morning, Judge Romanick now considers postponing the law from taking effect until the case is decided.

“Obviously, we’re not going to resolve this case here today. We’re simply here to argue the injunction portion of the matter,” said Judge Bruce Romanick.

Lauren Bernstein, an attorney for the Red River Women’s Clinic, argues for the injunction. She says the state’s constitution guarantees the right to an abortion. She says an injunction is necessary to prevent irreputable harm to patients and doctors.

“Doctors will need to balance the risk of jailtime with safeguarding patient’s health,” said Bernstein.

She adds that states with similar bans have already seen the impact, citing a Texas case where a doctor wouldn’t perform an abortion while a woman was suffering a miscarriage.

Defense attorney Matt Sagsveen says due to the broad language of the state constitution, abortion is not a fundamental right. He says the will of the public was expressed through the legislature 15 years ago with the 2007 trigger law.

“Importantly, these concurring opinions recognize North Dakota’s long-standing history of prohibiting abortion, except to preserve a woman’s life,” said Sagsveen.

Sagsveen also said the abortion law is not a total ban on the practice because it includes affirmative defenses.

Judge Romanick responded to the potential legal impact.

“The only way to resolve this is to go to trial with your affirmative defense. So now the physician, once he -- I just want to be clear that’s how I view this statute,” said Judge Romanick.

Judge Romanick also questioned the lawsuit’s relevance since the clinic moved to Moorehead, Minnesota.

“The state seeks to strip that access [to care] with what we’ve deemed an unconstitutional statute. And this remains the case despite the clinic’s move to Moorehead,” said Luna Barrington, attorney for the clinic. She says the case still impacts doctors and residents in the state regardless of where the clinic is located.

No decision was made. If the injunction is granted, the clinic will continue to operate in North Dakota while the case proceeds. An injunction would not indicate how the case will be decided.

Judge Romanick said he will make a decision by Friday August 26. That is the same day that the abortion law is set to go into effect.