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Published January 27, 2012, 10:21 PM

Ruling will allow medication-aided abortions to continue Fargo

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - A Cass County district judge declares a restraining order will stay in effect, allowing abortions by drugs to continue - for now. The sudden decision comes as a clinic challenges a controversial North Dakota law; that law making some abortions illegal.

By: Travis Skonseng, WDAY

A Cass County district judge declares a restraining order will stay in effect, allowing abortions by drugs to continue - for now. The sudden decision comes as a clinic challenges a controversial North Dakota law; that law making some abortions illegal.

The plaintiffs hoped Judge Corwin would rule in their favor by blocking that law at a special hearing, but he didn't. Moments after a landmark law is challenged in court, the plaintiffs emerge pleased.

Suzanne Novak – Center for Reproductive Rights: “He did seem to agree with a lot of our arguments and we think they should carry the day. We think there are many reasons under the North Dakota constitution that this law in invalid.”

The Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo is suing to stop the law, saying it's flawed and would ban drug abortions. The judge agrees.

Suzanne Novak: “There doesn't seem to really be a rational reason behind it. The reason for it is to restrict abortion. Why would you otherwise deny a safe and effective and common procedure?”

The issue surrounds these two FDA approved drugs used together. One is for abortions, the other for ulcers, but is not labeled as abortion inducing. For that reason, the law says it can't be used to terminate pregnancies.

State Representative Bette Grande – (R) Fargo: “We have deaths and injuries and everything else that come with going off label and so our intent was to follow proper procedure.”

Fargo Representative Bette Grande sponsored the legislation. Supporters argue women could still get abortions, just with surgery. Surgery is riskier and can be more expensive.

State Rep. Bette Grande: “This was put in place strictly for protection and health and safety of mothers and we need to stand on that.”

Opponents of the law argue forcing surgery takes away a woman's right to choose, a procedural ban here, unlike any others in the country.

The judge says the law lacks a health exception as required by the constitution. Another hearing has not been set. Legal briefings need to be filed by February 10th.

The director of North Dakota's only abortion clinic argues there's significant need for medication abortions here. Red River Women's Clinic performs about 1,300 abortions every year.

About 20% are done with drugs. Another 20% of patients are eligible but opt out. Some come from as far as Canada or the tri-states.

The clinic has been offering such abortions in the first 63 days of pregnancy since 2007. Advocates say the $550 procedure is more natural and less invasive to rape victims.

Tammi Kromenaker – Red River Women’s Clinic: “To go through a surgical procedure, to expose themselves even to a simple exam can bring back the trauma of the rape so doing the medication abortion, not having to have an exam, being in the privacy of their own home, very important to them.”

Minneapolis, Sioux Falls, and Duluth are the next closest cities with clinics performing medication abortions.

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