March 17, 2023

North Dakota Supreme Court Upholds Injunction Blocking Trigger Law

On March 16, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that a lower court's injunction blocking the state's pro-life trigger law could stay in place while the legal challenge continues. In its ruling, the court wrote that the law is likely unconstitutional.

North Dakota's trigger law was passed in 2007 and was written to take effect upon the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Under the law, a person who commits an abortion could be found guilty of a felony unless the mother's life was in danger, or the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest. Only the abortionist, not the mother, could be found guilty under the trigger law.

The trigger law was set to take effect 30 days after Roe v. Wade was overturned, but a district court issued an injunction to block it. The injunction came after Red River Women's Clinic sued to block North Dakota from enforcing the law. North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley filed an appeal asking the state supreme court to reinstate the trigger law, but the court has refused.

“The North Dakota Constitution explicitly provides all citizens of North Dakota the right of enjoying and defending life and pursuing and obtaining safety,” Chief Justice Jon Jensen wrote in the majority opinion. “These rights implicitly include the right to obtain an abortion to preserve the woman’s life or health.”

This is an odd statement since the law explicitly includes an exception for cases when the mother's life is in danger. Further, in direct contradiction with a supposed right to defend life, abortion threatens the lives of innocent children.

Opinions from the North Dakota Supreme Court's decision to let the injunction remain mentioned that this right to abortion is found in the state's right to self-defense. This logic appears to assume that a mother's life and health are attacked by her unborn child. This treats the child more like a parasite assaulting a woman's body than an innocent human being with a right to exist.

While the court did not issue a ruling on the constitutionality of the law, its decision does not bode well for the fate of North Dakota's trigger law.