News Law and Policy

North Dakota Accrues Steep Legal Fees Defending Medication Abortion Ban

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The state has set aside $400,000 to defend its most recent abortion restrictions. But with so many new laws to challenge, $400,000 might not be enough to cover the costs.

Residents of North Dakota are getting a lesson in just how expensive it is to defend an unconstitutional abortion ban. According to reports, the state has spent more than $52,000 defending the state’s 2011 medication abortion ban, and the state attorney general’s office is expect to ask the state’s Emergency Commission for an initial $30,000 this week to begin covering the costs.

According to reports, North Dakota lawmakers have set aside approximately $400,000 in all to defend against any legal challenges that spring up from a host of new restrictions passed this year, including the state’s fetal heartbeat ban, which could ban abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Other restrictions passed this year include a law banning abortions sought because of a genetic defect and a targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) provision that requires doctors who perform abortions to have hospital-admitting privileges. North Dakota also passed a so-called fetal pain ban that criminalizes abortions after 20 weeks. Each restriction is set to take effect August 1.

A judge has already temporarily blocked the state’s medication abortion ban, calling the law “simply wrongheaded” and preventing it from taking effect August 1. A written opinion detailing the injunction is expected later this month, but lawyers for the state have promised an appeal.

The legal expenses defending these laws represent a fraction of the state’s budget surplus, which has accumulated thanks to a boom in oil exploration and development in the state. Among the expenses associated with defending the law is a bill for more than $49,000 for Dr. Donna Harrison, president of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who testified in April as an expert witness for the state in the trial challenging the law.

Appreciate our work?

Rewire is a non-profit independent media publication. Your tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.


The expenses are likely just a taste of the legal bills to come now that anti-choice activists have decided North Dakota is the newest staging ground for the battle to overturn Roe v. Wade. Given that lawmakers have already spent $52,000 without even making it to the appeals stage, it seems likely that they may go over $400,000 when all is said and done.

Load More

Freedom of the press is under direct threat by the Trump Administration. Now more than ever, we need evidence-based reporting on health, rights, and justice.

Thank you for reading Rewire!