High Court Lets North Dakota Enact Abortion Waiting Period

Associated Press

The Supreme Court allowed North Dakota officials to begin enforcing an abortion law Friday that requires a 24-hour waiting period.

The court, on a 7-2 vote, rejected an emergency request to suspend the law until a federal appeals court rules on its constitutionality.

Justice Harry A. Blackmun on Wednesday blocked the law from taking effect to give the full court a chance to consider the matter. Friday’s order set aside Blackmun’s action.


Blackmun and Justice John Paul Stevens dissented Friday.

Operators of North Dakota’s only abortion clinic challenged the 1991 statute. The state law postpones an abortion for 24 hours after a woman is told of medical risks, the fetus’ approximate age and alternatives to abortion.

The Supreme Court upheld similar Pennsylvania provisions last year while also reaffirming the basic constitutional right to abortion. States may enact restrictions on abortion so long as they do not unduly burden a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion, the high court ruled in the Pennsylvania case.

The clinic’s lawsuit contends that the North Dakota restrictions create an undue burden because the Fargo Women’s Health Organization is the only abortion clinic in the state.