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Judges put temporary holds on Wyoming and North Dakota “trigger” laws

by | Jul 28, 2022

By Dave Andrusko

Citing provisions in their respective state constitutions, judges in Wyoming and North Dakota temporarily banned pro-life “trigger” laws from going into effect. The Wyoming ban was set to take effect today, the North Dakota law on Thursday.

Gov. Mark Gordon certified Wyoming’s abortion ban.“I believe that the decision to regulate abortion is properly left to the states,” Gordon said in Tweet. “As a pro-life governor, my focus will continue to be on ensuring we are doing all we can to support mothers, children and families.”

The Associated Press reported

Attorneys arguing before Teton County District Judge Melissa Owens, in Jackson, Wyoming, disagreed over whether the state constitution provided a right to abortion that would nullify the state’s abortion “trigger” law that took effect Wednesday.

Owens proved most sympathetic, though, with arguments that the ban left pregnant patients with dangerous complications and their doctors in a difficult position as they balanced serious medical risks against the possibility of prosecution.

“That is a possible irreparable injury to the plaintiffs. They are left with no guidance,” Owens said.

But “Wyoming Special Assistant Attorney General Jay Jerde was skeptical, saying the state constitution neither explicitly nor implicitly allowed abortion,” the Associated Press reported.

“No such right exists. You can’t infringe what isn’t there,” Jerde told Owens.

The temporary restraining order that blocks the abortion ban’s enforcement “will last until at least August 10, two weeks from Wednesday’s hearing,” Ellen Gerst and Maya Shimizu Harris reported. “Another hearing to discuss a preliminary injunction, which can last longer than the current block, is set for Aug. 9 in Teton County.”

North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley “certified the Supreme Court decision a few days after the ruling came down in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization,  meaning North Dakota’s trigger ban was due to go into effect on July 28, 30 days after his certification,”  Reid Forgrave reported for the (Minneapolis) Star-Tribune.

However, in North Dakota, Burleigh County District Judge Bruce Romanick “sided with the state’s only abortion clinic that the state had moved fast to let the law take effect,” according to Forgave. “The clinic had argued that a 30-day clock should not have started until the U.S. Supreme Court issued its certified judgment on Tuesday. The ruling will give the Red River clinic more time to relocate a few miles away to Moorhead, Minnesota, where abortion remains legal.”

North Dakota Right to Life labeled the lawsuit a “desperate delay tactic.”

“In a case from 2014, the North Dakota Supreme Court did not find evidence of a constitutional right to have an abortion in our state constitution. Because of this, declaring that there is a constitutional right to abortion is absurd and a waste of time,” McKenzie McCoy, North Dakota Right to Life’s executive director, said in a statement. “North Dakotans have repeatedly shown that we do not want abortion in our state, and the laws affirm that.”

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