Group files brief in defense of North Dakota abortion law

Published: Dec. 10, 2019 at 6:19 PM CST
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An anti-abortion group has filed a brief in defense of a North Dakota law that requires doctors to inform women that they can reverse the procedure when it is carried out with medication, even though the science behind that claim is disputed.

Heartbeat International Inc. and its attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom filed the brief in federal court on Tuesday.

“We want to make sure women are able to know all the facts before they abort a child,” said Kevin Theriot, an attorney for the group.

North Dakota is among eight states that have passed or amended laws to require doctors to tell women undergoing medication-induced abortions that they can still have a live birth after the procedure. The other states with similar laws are Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Utah. Five of those laws were passed this year.

The North Dakota law also would require doctors to tell the patient “time is of the essence” if she changes her mind.

The law that was passed this year by the state’s Republican-led Legislature and signed by GOP Gov. Doug Burgum is currently on hold pending a federal lawsuit.

The Center for Reproductive Rights sued the state in June on behalf of the Red River Women’s Clinic, which is North Dakota’s sole abortion provider, and the American Medical Association.

Clinic director Tammi Kromenaker, said the law would force doctors to give false information that is not backed up by science.

Liz Brocker, a spokeswoman for North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, said Stenejhem’s office was “reviewing” Heartbeat International’s brief but had no further comment.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland blocked the law in September, saying in in his order that state lawmakers should not be mandating unproven medical treatments and the provisions of the bill “go far beyond” any informed consent laws addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court, Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “or other courts to date.”

Heartbeat International Heartbeat International, which also operates the international Abortion Pill Rescue Network, also argues that a medication-induced abortion may be halted if the hormone progesterone is given to a woman after she has taken the first of two medications needed to complete the abortion.

Supporters of “reversal” laws cite a 2018 study led by an anti-abortion doctor and medical school professor in California. They also note that progesterone has been used for decades to prevent miscarriages.

Abortion-rights supporters have said that study is flawed and that progesterone’s use for reversing a medical abortion hasn’t been adequately tested. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has disputed the usefulness of the procedure.

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