FARGO - Sanford Health has granted hospital admitting privileges to licensed physicians who perform abortions at a Fargo women’s clinic, the first area hospital to allow abortion doctors to satisfy a new state requirement.

The law that establishes the credential mandate was suspended from taking effect when a judge granted an injunction last July pending the outcome of a legal challenge.

In court filings, the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo - the only abortion provider in North Dakota - said it tried to comply with the law requiring hospital privileges for abortion doctors, but concluded that none of its doctors could get admitting privileges at any of the three area hospitals.

A Sanford executive said in a statement that the decision follows a longstanding practice of “open privileges” at the hospital. Physicians, however, do not have privileges to perform routine abortions at Sanford.

“Sanford does not take a position on the issue and we do not perform abortion on demand,” Cindy Morrison, a Sanford executive vice president, said in the statement released Thursday.

“The important point here is Sanford has had an open medical staff model for over 100 years,” Morrison said in the statement. “This means that physicians, whether employed by Sanford or not, have the right to practice within our hospital as long as they meet certain educational, training, certifications and other quality metrics at the time they apply for privileges.”

Sanford declined to make an official available for an interview on the topic Thursday.

Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women’s Clinic, declined to comment on Sanford’s decision because settlement talks involving the lawsuit continue with the state.

“We can’t discuss the details of any potential settlement before it’s finalized,” she said. “If and when a settlement is reached, we’ll be very forthcoming with the details.”

A civil trial involving the legal challenge of the law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital was scheduled for this week, but was taken off the court calendar because of the possible settlement.

The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The lawsuit challenging the requirement that abortion doctors receive hospital admitting privileges was added on to an earlier lawsuit involving medication abortions.

Essentia Health has not granted hospital privileges to any doctors who perform abortions at Red River Women’s Clinic, according to Kim Kaiser, an Essentia spokeswoman. The only other hospital in the Fargo-Moorhead area is a federal Veterans Affairs facility.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has declined to comment on a possible settlement.

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