BISMARCK (AP) - A Dakotas-based health care system has granted hospital-admitting privileges to doctors at North Dakota's sole abortion provider, which would bring the Fargo clinic into compliance with a new state law.
In a statement Thursday to The Associated Press, Sanford Health said physicians at the Red River Women's Clinic have been credentialed at its hospital in Fargo.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which is helping the Red River Women's Clinic, filed a lawsuit in state court last year challenging the law that requires doctors who perform abortions to obtain hospital-admitting privileges within 30 miles of the abortion facility.
The case was slated for trial this week but was taken off the docket as a result of settlement talks, which the New York-based group announced this week without elaborating.
A state judge in July granted a preliminary injunction that prevents the law from taking effect.
Opponents had said the 2013 law would effectively make abortions illegal in North Dakota. They feared it would be impossible for doctors performing abortions to meet the number of hospital visits required to gain admitting privileges because the procedure is safe and women rarely need further care requiring hospitalization.
Clinic officials and their lawyers did not immediately respond for comment on Sanford Health's announcement. A spokeswoman for North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem declined to comment.
Sanford Health is a Fargo and Sioux Falls, S.D. -based health system. It bills itself as the nation's largest not-for-profit rural health care provider, with locations in 126 communities in nine states.
It's unclear when Sanford granted credentials to doctors at the abortion clinic.
Sanford's statement said its criteria for obtaining admitting privileges "based on objective criteria that is completely focused on protecting patients and providing safe patient care." The health system says the criteria "is applied in a neutral unbiased manner."
Eight states have passed laws what require that an abortion provider have admitting privileges at a local hospital, but laws have only taken effect in Texas, Utah and Tennessee. Utah and Tennessee have not been challenged in court. Judges have blocked similar legislation in Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi and Wisconsin.