Using zoning rules and regulations to hinder access to abortion care is not a new tactic for legislators across the country. But Senate Bill 2323 would place more stringent restrictions on where abortions clinics could be located in North Dakota, effectively eliminating access to abortion care in the state.
The ACLU of North Dakota opposes Senate Bill 2323. Prohibiting abortion clinics from getting a permit for new construction or building an addition if the clinic is within a 30-mile radius of a school is extreme, and, if passed, would likely be found unconstitutional.
“This bill is about using arbitrary zoning regulations to make abortion access more difficult, if not impossible,” said Libby Skarin, ACLU of North Dakota campaigns director. “Politicians should be focusing on protecting the health, rights and well-being of all North Dakotans instead of devising new ways to attack abortion rights with extreme legislation every two years. It’s long past time for our elected officials to stop interfering with people’s personal health care decisions and to start dealing with the very real problems in our state.”
If passed, Senate Bill 2323 would put North Dakota taxpayers on the hook legal fees associated with litigation. Recent court precedent in Alabama and Tennessee, where similar zoning laws and ordinances were passed and the ACLU successfully sued, confirms this.
In Alabama, the federal court permanently blocked the zoning restriction in 2016 and the state did not appeal. In Mt. Juliet, Tenn., the federal court issued a preliminary injunction of the town’s zoning ordinance and the suit was settled after the town voluntarily repealed its zoning ordinance in 2020. In both instances, however, the regulated clinic zoning was at a distance of just 1,000 to 2,000 feet from a school – far less than the 30-mile radius proposed in Senate Bill 2323.
Senate Bill 2323 is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Political Subdivisions Committee today. The ACLU of North Dakota provided written testimony in opposition (see below).
About the ACLU of North Dakota
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of North Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes South Dakota and Wyoming. The team in North Dakota is supported by staff in those states.
The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people. In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit communities. The ACLU of North Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of North Dakota.