North Dakota Loses Abortion Case, Must Pay $245,000 to Abortion Rights Group

150416 Abortion

Red River Women’s Clinic is the only abortion clinic in the entire state of North Dakota. Women who travel there to terminate their pregnancies must receive anti-abortion counseling then wait 24 hours before undergoing the procedure. Minors must receive parental consent. Doctors must be flown in from out of state to perform this extraordinarily safe and simple surgery. Angry protesters gather around Red River’s entrance, intimidating patients.

Still, these roadblocks weren’t enough for the North Dakota legislature, which in 2013 passed a “fetal heartbeat” law, banning abortions once a fetus’s heartbeat could be detected. Because that often occurs six weeks into a pregnancy, the measure effectively outlawed abortions in the middle of the first trimester, which is clearly illegal under the Supreme Court’s abortion precedents. As a result, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals begrudgingly invalidated the law after Red River challenged it—while simultaneously lambasting abortion and spewing junk science about its purportedly negative effects on women.

But a win is a win, and having lost a constitutional case in court, North Dakota is now required to pay the attorneys’ fees of the law’s triumphant challenger. On Thursday, the state and Red River agreed on a settlement of $245,000, which will go to Red River’s counsel, the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights. An international reproductive rights advocacy group, the CRC routinely wins lawsuits against restrictive abortion laws worldwide. It led the legal campaign against Texas’ onerous new clinic regulations, a fight that recently reached the Supreme Court. North Dakota’s sizable payout will help the organization continue to combat measures much like … North Dakota’s.

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers the law and LGBTQ issues

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