Red River Clinic Asks Court to Dismiss Its Legal Challenge to Sex-Selection and Fetal Anomaly Bans


A federal judge dismissed part of a lawsuit challenging a North Dakota law that bans abortions based on fetal anomalies or the gender of a fetus.

The law, HB 1305, bans abortions for reasons of sex selection and for genetic fetal anomaly. It is believed to be the most restrictive of its kind in the nation. North Dakota’s only abortion clinic, the Red River Women’s Clinic, represented by the New York City-based Center for Reproductive Rights, brought on a lawsuit in June challenging both HB 1305 and HB 1456, a law that would make virtually all abortions in the state illegal after the point at which cardiac activity can be detected in a pregnancy, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy. U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland temporarily blocked the fetal heartbeat ban in July calling it “clearly invalid and unconstitutional.”

The clinic asked the court to dismiss its legal challenge to the gender and fetal anomaly law because it determined that the law doesn’t apply to its practice. “Anti-choice politicians in North Dakota made their agenda obvious when they passed not one, but five laws attempting to eliminate safe and legal abortion in the state,” said Janet Crepps, senior counsel at CRR, in a statement explaining the decision to drop the legal challenge to the reasons-based ban. “And the motivation behind HB 1305 was no different: it is an unconstitutional law designed to block women’s access to reproductive health care services and give politicians license to question and intrude upon personal and private medical decisions.”

“However, through the course of our legal challenge to these blatantly unconstitutional laws, it is not clear that HB 1305 will have a direct impact on any women seeking abortion services at the Red River Women’s Clinic at this time,” Crepps said.

These gender-selection and fetal-heartbeat bans were not the only anti-choice measures to make their way through the state in recent legislative sessions. North Dakota also passed a 20-week “fetal pain” ban that went into effect in August. The clinic chose not to challenge that law for similar reasons, saying the law does not not apply because the clinic does not perform abortions after 16 weeks. Another new law requires a doctor who performs abortions to have hospital admitting privileges. A lawsuit challenging that measure was combined with another one challenging a 2011 law that outlaws one of two drugs used in medication (non-surgical) abortions, effectively banning medication abortions in the state. That legal challenge was brought in state court and Judge Wickham Corwin ruled the 2011 law violates the state and U.S. constitutions and permanently blocked it from taking effect in July.

The Red River Women’s Clinic dismissed its claim challenging the gender and fetal anomaly ban without prejudice, meaning it can revive them at a later date if warranted.

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  • fiona64

    While it is not the main point of the story, I must admit that I find one aspect of the matter puzzling. Why anyone would want to prevent a woman seeking abortion for fetal anomaly escapes me. A good many of these anomalies are incompatible with life ex utero. It seems to me that the best judge of what a woman and her family are able to handle would be ::gasp:: the woman and her family.

    • HeilMary1

      The antis want to torture and bully those forced-birth disabled fetuses and drive them to commit suicide. They feel very holy about bullying intersex gays into suicide.

    • Valde

      Because it appeals to the RR base who believe that even fetii without brains will experience a miracle and go on to be President of the USA.

      • fiona64

        Well, that would explain Dubya’s administration …

        • Valde

          So I got in trouble for calling my out on her lies, again, and saying: “you are an immoral lying monster”

          Seriously. They don’t seem to be offended by her trolling, but shit hits the fan if we point out how she lies, and how she’s a monster. I didn’t even call her a dumb twit, which is what I had desperately wanted to do!

          Apparently, I was supposed to say ‘your ideas are immoral not you’

          FFS

  • Progo35

    I don’t know why I sometimes still comment here, but anyway, I just wanted to say:
    a) Not everyone who opposes disability-selective-abortion, at least on a moral level, is a right winger who “wants to bully forced-birth disabled fetuses until they commit suicide.” Some of us are pro-choice disability activists (and pro life ones) who simply feel that abortions based on Marfans, Spina Bifida, Down Syndrome, a surgically reparable heart defect, achrondroplasia, etc-are heavily influenced by erroneous, outdated social conceptions of disability, it’s impact on the individual, its impact on the family, and its impact on society.
    b) the problem with “fetal anomaly” as a designation is that it encompasses everything from Tay Sachs, Potters Syndrome, cases of CDH in which the fetus is hasn’t developed lungs, and anencephaly to any of the conditions listed above. It does not account for the availability of surgery, state-funded support systems, etc-the term implies that all fetal anomalies are inherently tragic, horrible things. Mot of us see this implication as inherently ableist, regardless of the feelings behind it.

    b) It annoys me that saying this is very often derided as hateful-what are we supposed to say: “Yes, we totally agree with your assessment that life as a Little Person/person with Down Syndrome/person with Spina Bifida is a fate worse than death and that having a child with special needs would destroy your other childrens’ lives. We mourn with you over the loss of your child, which absolutely *had to* happen, because he/she was disabled”? I am sorry, but most of us just can’t reconcile such a position with our own experiences, even if we do feel sympathy and sorrow for the pain of TFMR families.

    • fiona64

      The only people who can decide how much risk is acceptable in cases like this are the involved families. I understand your position, but without knowing what *else* the family is dealing with, it’s just not appropriate to say that someone has no right to assess their own risks. Being pro-choice means letting people make their own choices — whether or not we approve of them, or would do something different in identical circumstances.

  • Progo35

    I think that for me and for others in the disability rights community, the issue isn’t so much the right to make the choice as it is the insistence of some in the TFMR community on having their losses validated by way of disabled people and our experiences. For instance, I once read an essay by a woman who terminated for Down Syndrome in which she said that she wasn’t at peace with her decision until she saw a woman with Down Syndrome cleaning tables at a restaurant. She assumed that this was the only job that this woman could get, and that her nondisabled son would never have to flip burgers for a living the way this woman was doing. And this was in a book for women who had experienced a TFMR. Any disabled person, especially one with training in social justice, would classify this sentiment as ableist and classist, even if we would not force this woman to carry to term.

    • fiona64

      Hence, it is possible to be pro-choice and disagree with someone’s reasons for making said choices.

      Which is pretty much what I said — what you or I would do in the identical circumstance does not dictate what some other individual does. Thanks for elucidating on your position, though; I appreciate your insight.

      • colleen2

        Progo is the Republican equivalent of a Ted Cruz or Clarence Thomas. She keeps advocating for people and policies that really hurt disabled people. Apparently the social safety net for Republican disabled people is mom and all those ‘natural’ women who work for free (or at least really really cheap). Someone should point out the flaws in that plan.

        • fiona64

          Thanks for the heads-up.

  • Progo35

    Fiona, here are some FACTS:
    A) I am not a Republican
    B) I have never, ever advocated anything like what Colleen is describing
    C) Coleen seems to really, really resent me and frequently goes to the lowest common denominator when interacting with me; so she isn’t a credible source regarding my perspectives, advocacy, or anything else that concerns my activity on this site.

    • fiona64

      And I, in turn, thank you for the information.