The states home to the United States’ harshest abortion restrictions, North Dakota and Arkansas, are both facing legal challenges over their new laws — and in both states, those battles have begun to advance this week.
In North Dakota, reproductive rights activists filed a lawsuit on Wednesday to challenge a measure that threatens to shut down the last remaining abortion clinic in the state. And in Arkansas, a district judge sided with abortion providers on Wednesday, denying the state’s request to drop the lawsuit against its new 12-week abortion ban and allowing the doctors’ challenge against it to continue.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York-based group that assists with litigation to defend women’s right to legal abortion, is also preparing to file suit against several other new anti-choice laws in North Dakota — including a measure that criminalizes abortions after just six weeks of pregnancy. Taken together, all of the new restrictions that North Dakota enacted this session would make it more difficult for women to terminate their pregnancies there than anywhere else in the country.
“‘With their relentless campaign to end safe and legal abortion in North Dakota, lawmakers have effectively told the women of their state, ‘We don’t care about your health, we don’t care about your safety, and we sure don’t care about your constitutional and human rights,’ ” the group’s president, Nancy Northrup, said in a statement this week. “Our message back to politicians hostile to reproductive rights in North Dakota and nationwide is crystal clear: We are going to fight back relentlessly against your attacks on the women of your state.”
When anti-choice lawmakers in North Dakota and Arkansas enacted the new abortion bans earlier this year, they were fully aware that those laws would spark court battles. In fact, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) even admitted that he decided to sign an unconstitutional six-week abortion ban exactly because he wanted to entangle his state in a legal fight that could “discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade.” This session, Republican lawmakers — who used to prefer to indirectly undermine women’s reproductive rights — are now favoring more direct attacks that they hope could eventually land the abortion issue back in the Supreme Court.
Of course, those fights don’t come without a cost. North Dakota’s attorney general has already requested an addition $400,000 dollars to defend its abortion bans in court. If abortion-related lawsuits drag on over several years, as they have in Kansas, costs can top $1 million dollars.