ND abortion proposal could draw legal challenges

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 20, 2013 at 5:43 pm •  Published: February 20, 2013
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Officials with Sanford Health, the largest hospital in the Dakotas, declined to talk about the North Dakota bill.

"At Sanford, we choose not to discuss abortion topics," clinic spokesman Darren Huber said in an email.

Kromenaker said she's not surprised that Sanford has opted to stay out of the discussion, especially since the bill has yet to become law.

"You are asking the hospitals to get involved in a very contentious matter," Kromenaker said. "People are leery to do that because they see what is happening at our clinic ... the protests, the attention."

Sanford officials said any doctor can apply for hospital credentials. Once an application has been submitted, several items are reviewed, including a background checks on previous employment or medical school references, and malpractice information. The information then travels up the chain to three committees, ending with the hospital's board of directors.

Asked if the hospital would make a decision to deny privileges to avoid the abortion controversy, Berry said, "I'm not aware of that, no. As far I know."

Berry, who had one time had hospital privileges to deliver babies, said obtaining the credentials is not a hardship. He said he has never been turned down when applying for them.

However, Kromenaker said some hospital require that doctors admit a certain amount of patients to the facility each year to maintain their privileges. She said it's rare when a patient of hers needs hospitalization, and it would be impossible for abortion doctors to meet that threshold.

None of the hospitals testified about the bill in committee. Christopher Dodson, a spokesman for the North Dakota Catholic Conference who discussed the issue with officials at St. Alexius Medical Center, a Catholic hospital in Bismarck, spoke briefly in support of the proposal.

"Women should never be abandoned," Dodson said when asked what he told lawmakers. "So as long as (abortion) is legal, we have to protect the women as well. It ensures that women's health care interests are best protected."

Sister Susan Lardy, a St. Alexius vice president, did not speak directly about the bill but issued a statement.

"As a Catholic health care provider, St. Alexius Medical Center follows the ethical and religious directives set forth by the Catholic church," she said. "These principles provide our organization with a clear picture of how to deliver compassionate care under the auspices of the ethical standards of behavior in health care that flow from the church's teaching about the dignity of the human person."

Democratic Sen. Carolyn Nelson, of Fargo, argued against the bill on the Senate floor.

"The sole purpose of that bill is to close down the clinic as far as I'm concerned," she said. "I don't see Sanford changing their protocols on how they allow people to get privileges. They require that a doctor have 10 visits a year and the clinic doesn't need that many."

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