FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota judge on Wednesday put on hold the state’s trigger law banning abortion while a lawsuit moves forward that argues it violates the state constitution, ruling that the attorney general had prematurely calculated the date when the ban should take effect.
Burleigh County District Judge Bruce Romanick sided with the state's only abortion clinic, the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo, that Attorney General Drew Wrigley “prematurely attempted to execute” the trigger language. The clinic had argued that a 30-day clock should not have started until the U.S. Supreme Court issued its certified judgment on Tuesday.
“Therefore the Court finds a temporary restraining order appropriate at this time,” Romanick wrote.
The ban had been set to take effect on Thursday. Shortly after the ruling, Wrigley said he was heading to the North Dakota Legislative Council's office to drop off another certification of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that reversed Roe vs. Wade. He did not comment about the judge's order.
The ruling, which comes as various states grapple with potential bans and other restrictions often backed by Republican lawmakers, will give the Red River clinic more time to relocate a few miles away to Moorhead, Minnesota, where abortion remains legal. Clinic owner Tammi Kromenaker has said she will move there if litigation doesn’t block the North Dakota ban.
Kromenaker has declined to say when the new clinic will be ready, and did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Planned Parenthood, which at one point had said it would step in if needed, has since said that Kromenaker has assured them that there would be no interruption in service due to the clinic’s relocation.
Attorney Tom Dickson said the clinic was gratified by the court's ruling and looks forward to the next hearing.
Destini Spaeth, the volunteer leader of an independent group that helps fund abortions in North Dakota, said it was an “emotional day” with the prospect of Wednesday being the last day for medical procedures at the clinic. She said she screamed when she heard about the order.
“More time is what we need, in terms of getting all our ducks in a row,” Spaeth said. “I'm not going to speculate on the rest of the lawsuit. We can't really depend on North Dakota in terms of legislation and the judicial branch. But this is a blessing.”
Meetra Mehdizadeh, attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is helping the clinic with the suit, said the plaintiffs "will do everything in our power to fight this ban and keep abortion accessible in North Dakota for as long as possible.”
As for the larger question in the suit, the clinic argues in its lawsuit that the North Dakota Constitution guarantees the rights of life, liberty, safety, and happiness, all of which protect the right to abortion. The judge did not address that part of the complaint in his order.
North Dakota’s law would make abortion illegal in the state except in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother.