North Dakota Judge Upholds Temporary Block on Abortion Ban

North Dakota Judge Upholds Temporary Block on Abortion Ban
A file photo of a judge's gavel. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Caden Pearson

A North Dakota judge on Monday stuck to his previous ruling to temporarily put a hold on the state’s abortion ban while a legal challenge plays out, according to a court filing.

Burleigh County District Judge Bruce Romanick ordered an injunction against the state’s trigger law abortion ban in August. North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley took the case to the state Supreme Court in September, which ordered the lower court to reevaluate its ruling in October.

Romanick had previously rejected a request from Wrigley to allow the state’s trigger ban to take effect while an abortion clinic took legal action challenging the ban’s constitutionality.

Wrigley, a Republican, argued that Romanick had not sufficiently considered the chances that the case had to succeed in court.

The state Supreme Court agreed and, on Oct. 11, ordered Romanick to “determine the substantial probability of succeeding on the merits and then determine whether the injunction remains appropriate based on all the factors.”

No ‘Clear and Obvious Answer’

In his ruling (pdf), Romanick noted the arguments for and against the ban.

The abortion clinic argues the ban violates North Dakota’s constitution because it infringes on “the inalienable right to enjoy and defend life and liberty and pursue and obtain safety and happiness,” according to the ruling. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, power to decide abortion laws returned to the states.

“Conversely, the State argues there is no fundamental right to an abortion under the North Dakota Constitution,” Romanick said.

The judge went on to note that the North Dakota Supreme Court hasn’t determined whether state residents have a constitutional right to an abortion.

The last time the issue of abortion was before the state Supreme Court, the four justices could not reach a consensus, with each writing their own opinions.

Romanick noted that each of the parties in the current matter has heavily cited the previous opinions from MKB Management Corp. v. Burdick that suit their conclusion.

“There can be no doubt, that the issue before the Court is not only pressing, but highly contentious, even amongst the judiciary. The answer to whether the Statute is constitutional is not obvious,” the judge said.

In his earlier ruling, Romanick noted the abortion clinic’s uphill battle, but on Monday, he noted that without a “clear and obvious answer” from the state Supreme Court, the case against the ban has a “substantial probability of succeeding on the merits” in court.

The injunction against the abortion ban will remain until the legal challenge is settled on its merits.


Red River Women’s Clinic of Fargo Director Tammi Kromenaker said she’s pleased with the judge’s decision.

North Dakota’s attorney general isn’t giving up.

“I’m unpersuaded by almost everything I read in the judge’s ruling and we look forward to responding,” Wrigley said.

The abortion clinic closed down its North Dakota premises and moved a few miles across the border to Minnesota, where the procedure is legal.

North Dakota’s trigger law was set to take effect in August, 30 days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. However, Romanick originally ruled that Wrigley “prematurely attempted to execute” the law’s trigger language.

The state’s trigger law bans all abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when needed to protect the life of the mother. These exceptions need to be proved in court or the doctor can face a felony charge.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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