North Dakota has appealed the ruling of a federal judge who, earlier this year, overturned a law the North Dakota legislature passed to ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
At 22 days into pregnancy, before most women know they are pregnant, unborn children complete the development of their heart to the point that a heartbeat begins and the bill would stop abortions at that point. The law was meant to ban abortions when the unborn babies heartbeat begins but would have been applied at six weeks of pregnancy.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said in a statement that Hovland’s ruling was not unexpected.
“The Legislature passed the law in hopes that a higher court would revisit the issue,” Stenehjem said. “It seems prudent that an appellate court should have an opportunity to consider the issue rather than have one judge overturn the judgment of the Legislative Assembly.”
Some pro-life groups were not on board with the legislation, not because they oppose banning abortions but out of a concern that it would be struck down in court if passed, since the Supreme Court is currently dominated by at least a 5-4 pro-abortion majority. As a result, the legislation would be struck down in court and the ruling would add to the case law that supports Roe vs. Wade.
Such groups are working to change the courts so Roe can be overturned and legislation like the Heartbeat bill or others could be approved to provide legal protection for unborn children. Given the Roe ruling, it’s no surprise the judge struck the ban. The only way to ban abortions is to first change the makeup of the Supreme Court to be comprised of at least five judges willing to overturn Roe and pave the way for some sort of measure to ban abortions.
The state’s only abortion clinic, in Fargo, filed a lawsuit in July against the measure. Hovland issued a temporary injunction a month later barring the law from taking affect.
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More than 60 North Dakota lawmakers recently wrote a letter to Stenehjem urging him to appeal the federal judge’s decision.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which is helping the Red River Women’s Clinic, has said it is committed to challenging the fetal heartbeat bill on behalf of the clinic.