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    Legal challenges begin against ND abortion laws

    FARGO, N.D. — Abortion rights activists on Wednesday filed the first of what they expect will be several legal challenges to laws recently approved in North Dakota that would make that state the most restrictive in the country for women to terminate their pregnancies.

    The state’s lone abortion clinic, backed by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, said it filed a lawsuit that challenges a law that requires doctors who perform abortions to obtain hospital-admitting privileges.

    Officials with the Red River Women’s Clinic in downtown Fargo — where protesters hold weekly vigils on Wednesday, when abortions are typically performed — argue the law could effectively make abortion illegal in North Dakota.


    The measure was one of four Governor Jack Dalrymple signed into law this past session that could spearhead a campaign to overturn the US Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that made abortion legal in most cases.

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    The law being challenged is scheduled to take effect Aug. 1. Officials with the Center for Reproductive Rights said they plan to file lawsuits soon against two other abortion bills — including one that bans abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected, which could be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

    The sponsor of the admitting privileges bill, Senator Spencer Berry, said that the law is needed to protect the health and safety of women who are having abortions.

    Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the opposite is true.

    ‘‘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,’ ’’ Northrup said Wednesday in a statement.


    Officials with Dakota-based Sanford Health say any doctor may apply for hospital credentials. Once an application has been submitted, several items are reviewed, including background checks, medical school references, and malpractice information. The information then travels up the chain to three committees, ending with the hospital’s board of directors.

    Opponents of the measure say it is impossible for abortion doctors in North Dakota to meet the minimum number of hospital visits required for privileges because the procedure is safe and women never need further care.