Judge halts North Dakota abortion counseling law

Judge halts North Dakota abortion counseling law
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A federal judge has temporarily halted a North Dakota law that required doctors to tell patients the effects of abortion drugs can be reversed.

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland issued an order Tuesday granting a preliminary injunction on that part of the law, known as H.B. 1336.

"Legislation which forces physicians to tell their patients, as part of informed consent, that 'it may be possible' to reverse or cure an ailment, disease, illness, surgical procedure, or the effects of any medication—in the absence of any medical or scientific evidence to support such a message—is unsound, misplaced, and would not survive a constitutional challenge under any level of scrutiny," Hovland wrote.

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"The provisions of H.B. 1336 violate a physician’s right not to speak and go far beyond any informed consent laws addressed by the United States Supreme Court, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, or other courts to date," added Hovland, a George W. Bush appointee. 

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a suit against the law in June on behalf of the American Medical Association and the Red River Women’s Clinic, the only abortion clinic in North Dakota.

“Across the country, doctors are being used as political pawns in the attack on abortion,” Marc Hearron, Senior Counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.

“We all have the right to free speech and to speak the truth. That doesn’t change because you’re a doctor who provides abortion care. Today, the court stepped in to protect the First Amendment rights of these physicians."

A spokesperson for North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem (R) said the office is reviewing the order.

The Hill has reached out to Cass County State Attorney Birch Burdick, who was also named as a defendant in the suit, for comment.

The Center for Reproductive Rights noted that eight states including North Dakota have passed laws requiring abortion providers to tell women they can reverse medication abortion and that five of those laws were passed this year.

A series of states this year also passed broader abortion bans, many of which have been challenged in court.