North Dakota’s trigger law, passed by the state legislature in 2007, makes it a felony to perform an abortion, with exceptions for abortions performed as a result of rape or incest, or to save the life of the mother.
The Red River Women’s Clinic argued that the trigger ban is unconstitutional because the North Dakota Constitution provides for a fundamental right to abortion.
The ban’s implementation was tied to the Supreme Court’s June decision reversing Roe, but the law has been blocked since late July when a North Dakota district court granted a request to halt enforcement.
After the lower court approved the clinics’ request for a preliminary injunction, North Dakota’s attorney general asked the state supreme court to intervene and reinstate the trigger ban.
However, the state supreme court denied the state’s request to lift the preliminary injunction while the legal fight proceeds, finding that the abortion clinics’ suit has a substantial likelihood of succeeding.
In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Jon Jensen wrote that “The North Dakota Constitution explicitly provides all citizens of North Dakota the right of enjoying and defending life and pursuing and obtaining safety…these rights implicitly include the right to obtain an abortion to preserve the woman’s life or health.”
The North Dakota Supreme Court further ruled that the state’s trigger ban is likely unconstitutional because it “unnecessarily restricts a woman’s access to an abortion to preserve her life or health.”
The decision is a significant victory for abortion rights advocates, who have been fighting abortion restrictions under state constitutions since the Supreme Court rolled back Roe.
Nancy Northrup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, who filed the suit on behalf of the abortion providers, praised the North Dakota Supreme Court for its ruling, saying it “rightfully” stopped the ban from taking effect.
Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women’s Clinic, said the high court made the “right decision” and sided with North Dakotans.
Over 12 states have implemented bans or tightened restrictions on abortion access since the US Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to abortion in June 2022.