North Dakota Can’t Force Doctors to Tout Medication Abortion ‘Reversal’

The North Dakota Capitol building in Bismarck. (Bobak Ha’Eri via Wikipedia)

BISMARCK, N.D. (CN) – A federal judge on Tuesday blocked a North Dakota law requiring abortion providers to tell patients that their medically induced abortions could be reversed if the woman has second thoughts.

House Bill 1336, known as the Compelled Reversal Mandate, drew a challenge from the American Medical Association and North Dakota’s only abortion clinic, The Red River Women’s Clinic. The organizations claim the law forces physicians to give their patients information not backed up by any medical data or science.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland granted a preliminary injunction, finding lawmakers should not be compelling speech in the form of medical advice that a doctor disagrees with.

“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,” Hovland wrote.  “Accordingly, the plaintiffs have shown they are likely to prevail on the merits of their compelled speech claim.”

North Dakota’s GOP-dominated Legislature passed the Compelled Reversal Mandate, requiring doctors to inform patients that medications could be used to reverse the effects of a medically induced abortion. But the American Medical Association says in the complaint that information is “wholly unsupported by the best, most reliable scientific evidence.”

The American Medical Association relied on the opinion of several medical experts including Brian Wildey, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Altru Health System in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

“H.B. 1336 is an unwarranted and inappropriate intrusion on the practice of evidence-based medicine. By forcing physicians to speak a message with which they disagree, it improperly interferes with the ability of physicians to practice medicine ethically,” Wildey said in a declaration accompanying the complaint. “It is also dangerous for patients because it misleads them into believing an unproven, unsupported theory, introduces needless health risks, and has the potential to stigmatize physicians.”

The plaintiffs applauded the injunction.

“It’s simple: patients need to be able to trust their providers,” said Tammi Kromenaker, director of Red River Women’s Clinic, in a statement. “Forcing us to give our patients false medical information would violate our medical ethics and endanger the trust our patients place in us.”

The groups also challenge an existing North Dakota law which requires abortion providers to inform patients that abortion “terminates the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.” Hovland did not rule on that element of the complaint.

The North Dakota Attorney General’s Office said it is reviewing Hovland’s order.


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