A federal judge has 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.
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.
Here is more on the ruling from the Associated Press:
U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland, who is based in Bismarck, said the law is “invalid and unconstitutional” and that it “cannot withstand a constitutional challenge.” The state attorney general said he was looking at whether to appeal the decision.
North Dakota is among several conservative states that have passed new abortion restrictions in recent years, but abortion rights advocates called North Dakota’s fetal heartbeat law the most restrictive in the country. A fetal heartbeat law passed in Arkansas would ban abortions at 12 weeks into pregnancy, but it was overturned by another federal judge. The state’s attorney general has said he will appeal.
North Dakota’s heartbeat measure was among four anti-abortion bills that Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed into law last year with overwhelming support from the state’s Republican-led Legislature. Backed by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, the state’s only abortion clinic, the Red River Clinic in Fargo, filed a lawsuit against the heartbeat law last July.
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“The United States Supreme Court has spoken and has unequivocally said no state may deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at a point prior to viability,” Hovland wrote in his ruling. “The controversy over a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion will never end. The issue is undoubtedly one of the most divisive of social issues. The United States Supreme Court will eventually weigh in on this emotionally-fraught issue but, until that occurs, this Court is obligated to uphold existing Supreme Court precedent.”
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he needed to read Hovland’s ruling and talk to the governor and others before deciding what the state will do next.