Legislature's Appropriation For Abortion Legal Battles Nearly Used Up


Over at Watchdog.org I have an article today about the cost, in taxpayer dollars, of the legal battles over the pro-life bills passed by the North Dakota Legislature in 2013. The Legislature appropriated $400,000 to pay for the expected legal fights, and nearly $330,000 of that appropriation has been used so far.

Here’s an excerpt:

The legal wrangling over HB 1456 has cost taxpayers $154,749 — through the date of Hovland’s April 17 ruling, according to data obtained from Stenehjem’s office.

That figure includes $124,737 in payments to the Grand Forks-based Pearson Christenson & Clapp law firm for legal services, and just more than $30,000 in payments to expert witnesses.

The state also fought a successful legal battle over SB 2305, which would require doctors at abortion clinics in the state to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. That law was challenged by the Fargo-based Red River Women’s Clinic and the Center for Reproductive Rights, a national group based in New York City; the suit was settled when the clinic was able to get admitting privileges at the Sanford hospital in Fargo.

According to the Attorney General’s office, that litigation cost the state $79,848.

In addition to these outside expenses, the attorney general’s office estimates another 1,046 hours have been spent on the cases by state staff at a cost of $93,238.66. “If we provide legal services to another state agency, the attorney work time is billed out,” Liz Brocker, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said via email. “The $93K is the calculation of the monetary value of the work time spent by the attorneys & paralegals within this office.”

The total cost to taxpayers, including the time spent by state employees on the cases, comes to $326,835.66.

Just two of the four laws passed by the Legislature have been challenged in court so far. The heartbeat bill looks like it will be appealed, and the law requiring admitting privileges for abortion doctors has been settled with the state coming out on top and the law staying on the books.

The law banning abortion for gender selection or because of genetic abnormalities hasn’t be challenged at all, and the law defining personhood as existing at all stages of human development in the state constitution has to be approved by voters in November where it will be Measure 1 on the statewide ballot.