Health

Medication abortion reversal is “devoid of scientific support,” judge rules in North Dakota today

  • Five states have passed laws regarding medication abortion reversal this year
  • The North Dakota attorney general’s office told CBS News they were “reviewing the order”
  • North Dakota is one of six states that only has one abortion clinic

A judge in North Dakota ruled against the state’s recent law requiring physicians to tell patients that their medication abortions may reversed, a claim he called “devoid of scientific support, misleading, and untrue.”

In a 24-page decision issued Tuesday morning, Judge Daniel Hovland granted the American Medical Association and Red River Women’s Clinic — North Dakota’s only abortion provider — a preliminary injunction against North Dakota House Bill 1336, which would have required physicians to tell patients “that it may be possible to reverse the effects of an abortion-inducing drug if she changes her mind, but time is of the essence,” according to the law’s text.

“State legislatures should not be mandating unproven medical treatments, or requiring physicians to provide patients with misleading and inaccurate information,” Judge Hovland wrote. “The provisions of [this law] 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.”

A spokesperson for the North Dakota attorney general’s office said they were “reviewing the order” and declined to answer whether they would appeal the decision.

The state’s claim that a medical abortion — colloquially called a pill abortion — can be reversed is based on a pair of studies that have been contested by The American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Access to abortion services in North Dakota is already limited. The 70,762-square-mile state only has one legal abortion provider and women seeking the procedure must undergo a state-mandated 24-hour waiting period, according to data compiled by the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research group. Minors in the state are required to notify their parents if they receive an abortion and the state limits the ways in which private insurance carriers cover the procedure, according to Guttmacher.

Eight states have passed laws requiring abortion providers to tell patients about alleged medication abortion reversal. Five of those laws were passed this year. Tuesday’s ruling is the first time this year that a court has ruled against one of those regulations, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, one of the legal groups involved in the case. A judge in Arizona struck down a similar law in 2016 and state lawmakers eventually repealed the law.

“We’re seeing a trend across the country — anti-abortion politicians are trying to use doctors as mouthpieces for the state. But doctors have first amendment rights like everyone else,” said Marc Hearron, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, in an email sent to CBS News on Tuesday morning. “They cannot be forced to lie to their patients.”

The lawsuit also challenges a separate state law that requires physicians to tell patients that abortion terminates “the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.” That aspect of the lawsuit has not yet been addressed.


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