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North Dakota Abortion Laws

Abortion is illegal in North Dakota with limited exceptions.

The state's prohibition on abortion does not apply:

  • When the abortion is deemed necessary based on reasonable medical judgment to prevent death or avert a serious health risk to the pregnant person
  • When the abortion is to terminate a pregnancy based on reasonable medical judgment that the pregnancy was caused by gross sexual imposition, sexual imposition, sexual abuse of a ward, or incest and the probable gestational age of the fetus is six weeks or less
  • To an individual assisting in performing an abortion if the individual acts within the scope of their practice and under the direction of a physician and is unaware that the physician is performing an illegal abortion

North Dakota Abortion Law After Dobbs

In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization overruled Roe v. Wade. This court decision ended the federal constitutional right to abortion and decades of legal precedent. It returned the issue of abortion to the states. As a result, states have the authority to regulate and prohibit abortion.

In 2007, North Dakota enacted a trigger-ban law prohibiting abortion, which would go into effect upon the reversal of Roe. This 2007 law only permitted abortions necessary to save the life of the mother or in the cases of rape or incest.

The North Dakota Attorney General sought to invoke the trigger ban after Dobbs. A North Dakota judge issued a preliminary injunction and enjoined enforcement of the law. The North Dakota Supreme Court upheld the injunction, finding that the North Dakota state constitution provides a right to abortion to preserve a woman's life or health in Wrigley v Romanick (2023).

Shortly after the state supreme court ruling, the state legislature repealed the 2007 trigger ban. It enacted a new abortion ban which was signed by Gov. Doug Burgum in April 2023.

The 2023 law provides exceptions to preserve the pregnant patient's life or to avert a serious health risk. It also allows abortions to end an ectopic pregnancy or a molar pregnancy.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a legal challenge to the new law in state district court. However, the 2023 abortion ban remains in effect at this time.

North Dakota Abortion Laws at a Glance

The Dobbs decision removed any national standard. As a result, state abortion laws vary. In restrictive states, laws may require waiting periods and ultrasound tests. They may place limits to legal abortion at six weeks, 12 weeks, or 18 weeks into a pregnancy.

The following chart contains details about abortion laws in North Dakota, with links to related sources. See FindLaw's Abortion section for additional articles.

Relevant North Dakota Abortion Statutes (Laws)

North Dakota Constitution

Article I, Section 1

North Dakota Century Code

Title 12.1, Criminal Code

Title 14, Domestic Relations and Persons

When Is Abortion Legal?

Abortion is illegal in North Dakota unless deemed necessary based on reasonable medical judgment to prevent death or a serious health risk to the pregnant patient.

A serious health risk is a condition that makes an abortion necessary to prevent substantial physical impairment of a major bodily function, not including a psychological or emotional condition.

A further exception allows abortion in cases of sexual assault or incest if the gestational age of the fetus is six weeks or less.

Consent Requirements

Adult: The pregnant patient must provide written consent. Abortion clinics and providers must give patients detailed written materials on gestational development, risks of the procedure and risks of childbirth, legal restrictions, and alternatives to abortion.

Minor (under 18): In addition to the informed consent provisions for a patient, a physician must provide notice to a parent or guardian of a minor at least 24 hours prior to consent, unless a court has granted a judicial bypass. If the abortion will occur post-viability, then a parent or guardian must also provide consent under most circumstances.

Penalty for Unlawful Abortion

Unlawful abortion is a Class C Felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

An exception in the law states that a pregnant female upon whom an abortion is performed cannot be charged with the crime.

Physician Licensing Requirements

Only a physician licensed to practice medicine (MD) or osteopathy (DO) or who practices in the armed services or for the United States can perform an abortion in North Dakota. Physicians must also have admitting privileges at a hospital that is no more than 30 miles away.

Note: State laws change often, either through the enactment of new legislation, the decisions of higher courts, or other means. You may want to contact a North Dakota family law attorney, a constitutional law attorney, or conduct your own legal research to verify the status of any state law(s) you are reviewing.

How North Dakota Compares to Other States

North Dakota's near-total ban is one of the strictest abortion laws in the U.S. The North Dakota Republican Party, which opposes legalized abortion, dominates the State House and State Senate. All major statewide officers are also Republicans.

As state leaders moved to ban abortion, the state's last abortion provider, the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo, moved to the neighboring city of Moorhead, Minnesota, where abortion remains legal.

Since the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs, some 17 states prohibit most abortion services. This number remains subject to change as states continue to pass new restrictions.

In contrast, the majority of states (over 30) and D.C. provide protections for abortion care up to the point of fetal viability. In some states, courts have blocked abortion bans while legal challenges go forward.

In several states, abortion rights supporters seek to empower voters with ballot initiatives that would add protections to state law.

A Note About Medication Abortion

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the two-drug abortion pill regimen used in medication abortion over 20 years ago. A recent study showed that some 63% of abortions in the U.S. now involve medication abortion.

In 2022, abortion opponents filed a lawsuit in Texas federal court seeking to stop or limit the use of mifepristone, one of the drugs used in medication abortion. At the same time, several states without harsh abortion restrictions filed a court action to maintain access to the drug for patients.

The U.S. Supreme Court has placed a hold on lower court rulings and maintained access to the drug while it reviews the issue. A decision is expected in 2024.

Research the Law

North Dakota Abortion Laws: Related Resources

Have More Questions About Abortion Law? Talk to a Lawyer

Navigating state laws on abortion can be difficult. Abortion access once granted to North Dakotans no longer exists. In such situations, it can be helpful to know the laws in nearby states like Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota, and Kansas. Consider speaking with an experienced healthcare attorney in your area.  

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