September 18, 2019
A federal district court in North Dakota granted a request for a preliminary injunction, blocking enforcement of a state law passed earlier this year requiring physicians to tell patients that a medication abortion may be “reversed,” an unproven medical and scientific theory, and further requiring physicians to provide information about where to seek such “reversal” treatment. The lawsuit was filed in June by Weil and the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the American Medical Association and Red River Women’s Clinic, the only abortion clinic in North Dakota.
In the decision, Chief Judge Daniel Hovland wrote: “The Court finds that the mandate of H.B. 1336 violates the First Amendment rights of physicians. Rather than focus on relevant medical information designed to assist a woman in making a free choice, H.B.1336 expresses ideological beliefs essentially designed to make it more difficult for women to choose an abortion. The North Dakota law requires abortion providers to enunciate the State’s viewpoint on an unproven medical and scientific theory, namely whether a chemical abortion can be reversed. North Dakota may not violate the First Amendment rights of physicians by compelling them to espouse the State’s ideology. The law also clearly interferes with the doctor-patient relationship; forces the attending physician to convey to his/her patient a state-mandated message that is devoid of credible scientific evidence; misinforms and misleads the patient; undermines informed consent and the standard of care; and is arguably unethical. A law which mandates that physicians become mouthpieces for a false, misleading, and controversial ‘abortion reversal’ message would not survive any level of constitutional scrutiny. The Court believes H.B. 1336 violates a physician’s First Amendment protection against compelled speech.”
The case will now continue through extensive discovery, with trial scheduled for February 1, 2021.