North Dakota's sole abortion clinic halts medication abortions in wake of Supreme Court ruling

North Dakota's sole abortion provider stopped providing medication abortions Wednesday in the wake of a state Supreme Court ruling that blocked the use of pregnancy-terminating drugs, though surgical abortions were still being provided, the clinic's director said.

The state's high court issued a ruling late Tuesday upholding a 2011 state law that limits the use of abortion-inducing drugs. The state attorney general said the clinic in Fargo had two weeks to appeal and abide by the decision, but Red River Women's Clinic director Tammi Kromenaker said she didn't want to risk legal action.

"I've directed staff to not offer (medication abortions) effective today," she told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "I didn't want to put any staff in jeopardy."

Kromenaker said about eight women were scheduled for medication abortions this week, but they each has been told the option is no longer available "and to prepare for other options." Most of the clinic's abortions are surgical procedures.

In a divided decision released late Tuesday, the five-member Supreme Court said the law — which bars the use of one of two drugs used by the clinic in medication abortions — didn't violate the North Dakota Constitution. Attorneys for the clinic, which is represented by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, were still mulling the 103-page ruling on Wednesday, Kromenaker said.

Medication abortions at the Red River Women's Clinic involve the use of mifepristone and misoprostol. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the marketing of mifepristone — commonly known as RU-486 — as a drug for ending pregnancies. Misoprostol is a treatment for stomach ulcers that is not labeled as an abortion-inducing drug.

Because misoprostol is not labeled as an abortion-inducing drug, North Dakota law prohibits its use for that purpose.

Attorneys for the clinic have said that abortion drugs used by the clinic are widely accepted by the medical community. Kromenaker said about 20 percent of the 1,300 abortions the clinic performs each year are done by using a combination of the two drugs.

The clinic, which is served by three out-of-state physicians licensed to practice in North Dakota, performs surgical abortions for women up until the 16th week of pregnancy. Medication abortions were done if a woman was pregnant for 63 days or less, Kromenaker said.