BISMARCK, N.D. (CNS) — The North Dakota Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s bishops, filed a friend-of-the-court brief Oct. 1 with the North Dakota Supreme Court, urging the court to reverse a district court ruling that found a right to an abortion in the state constitution.
“The district court’s judgment, recognizing a fundamental right to abortion under the state constitution, threatens a wide range of abortion regulations the state has enacted, including parental consent, informed consent, waiting periods and public funding restrictions, as well as virtually any other abortion regulation the state may enact,” said the brief, prepared with the assistance of the Chicago-based Thomas More Center.
“Nothing in the inalienable rights guarantee or the due process guarantee of the North Dakota constitution confers a right to abortion that is separate from, and independent of, the right to abortion the (U.S.) Supreme Court has derived from the liberty language of the 14th Amendment,” it added. This was the finding in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions of 1973 that permitted abortion virtually on demand.
“This court has not developed a formal methodology for determining whether an asserted interest is protected by the inalienable rights language” of the state constitution, “as secured by the due process guarantee,” the brief said.
“A right to abortion cannot be found in the text, structure or history of the North Dakota constitution. There is no evidence that the framers or ratifiers of the North Dakota constitution intended to limit the Legislature’s authority to prohibit or regulate abortion.”
In March, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed three abortion bills into law in March: one to require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital; another to ban abortion for the purpose of sex selection or genetic abnormality; and a third to ban abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy.
“North Dakota enacted its first abortion statutes in 1877, 12 years before the 1889 constitution was adopted and North Dakota was admitted as a state,” the brief said, citing one law, made moot given the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court rulings, that “prohibited abortion upon a pregnant woman at any stage of her pregnancy except when the procedure was necessary “‘to preserve her life.'”
The friend-of-the-court brief was filed in the case of MKB Management Corp v. Burdick. MKB runs the state’s only abortion clinic, the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo. The defendants include Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick.
In July, a state judge said a 2011 North Dakota law prohibiting one of the two drugs used for nonsurgical abortions violates the state and U.S. constitutions.
In related news, Planned Parenthood, the largest U.S. abortion provider, filed a lawsuit Sept. 27 in federal court challenging part of a new Texas law that also bans abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.
But rather than challenge that provision, Planned Parenthood’s suit wants to reverse one provision that doctors who provide abortions must have admitting privileges at a local hospital, and another that requires direct supervision of a doctor for women to receive RU-486, the so-called “abortion pill.”
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