The Red River Women’s Clinic of Fargo, North Dakota’s only abortion provider, challenged the law as unconstitutional. Last July a district court judge issued a restraining order preventing the law from taking effect. That same judge continued his order until he decides on the clinic’s request to permanently block the law.
The clinic performs approximately 1300 abortions a year and of those about 250 are done using a combination of two drugs, mifeprex and misoprostol. The federal Food and Drug Administration as approved the marketing of mifeprex as a drug for ending pregnancies and doctors use that drug in combination with misoprostol, a treatment for stomach ulcers that is not labeled as an abortion-inducing drug.
North Dakota’s law states that the use of any drug to cause an abortion must meet the “protocol tested and authorized” by the FDA and outlined on the drug’s label. Proponents of the law say because misoprostol is not labeled as an abortion-inducing drug the law prohibits its use for that purpose. North Dakota law does not prohibit the “off-label” use of any other drug.
Opponents argue the law effectively bans medication abortions and irrationally restricts access to health care services. Suzanne Novak, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York smartly framed the issue this way: “[t]his is like saying, you have a heart condition and you can either get medicine for this heart condition, or you can undergo surgery. But you know what? We’re going to decide, we’re just going to take the medication option off the table, and all of you have to get surgery,” Novak said. “That is an irrational law, and unconstitutional under any standard.”
Eastern Central District Judge Wickham Corwin delayed his ruling but a victory on this issue would be a big win for women’s health advocates and women in North Dakota seeking a safe, minimally invasive manner of terminating a pregnancy.
Photo from e-MagineArt.com via flickr.