North Dakota will hand over almost a quarter of a million dollars to abortion activists after a court overturned a state law banning abortion when unborn babies have a detectable heartbeat.
The Associated Press reports the state agreed to pay $245,000 to lawyers from the pro-abortion group Center for Reproductive Rights, which challenged the law on behalf of a North Dakota abortion clinic. The state reached the settlement agreement on Tuesday, according to the Bismarck Tribune.
The 2013 law was meant to ban abortions when the unborn baby’s heartbeat begins but would have been applied at six weeks of pregnancy. As LifeNews previously reported, at 22 days into pregnancy 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 local news report has more details about the settlement:
The “heartbeat bill” banned abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, at about six weeks of pregnancy. After the challenge by the clinic, a federal judge in Bismarck blocked its implementation. The U.S. Supreme Court in January refused to review the state’s case, so it remains blocked.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said Tuesday night that the center had originally sought about $338,000 in legal fees, and the state negotiated it down to $245,000 after reviewing fees in similar cases.
“It cost actually in total far less than what we thought and far less than was predicted by some,” he said.
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The attorney general’s office said in January it had spent more than $320,000 on abortion-related litigation since February 2012, including about $240,000 defending the fetal heartbeat law in federal court. State lawmakers appropriated $400,000 in both 2013 and 2015 for abortion-related litigation.
After the legislation passed in North Dakota in 2013, Governor Jack Dalrymple said the following: “I have signed HB 1456 which would ban abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. Although the likelihood of this measure surviving a court challenge remains in question, this bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade. Because the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed state restrictions on the performing of abortions and because the Supreme Court has never considered this precise restriction in HB 1456, the constitutionality of this measure is an open question. The Legislative Assembly before it adjourns should appropriate dollars for a litigation fund available to the Attorney General.”
A federal appeals court overturned the law in 2014. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said the following about their ruling on the six-week ban: “Because there is no genuine dispute that (North Dakota’s law) generally prohibits abortions before viability — as the Supreme Court has defined that concept — and because we are bound by Supreme Court precedent holding that states may not prohibit pre-viability abortions, we must affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the plaintiffs.”
The U.S. Supreme Court decision against the law in January was not surprising given the high court still has a pro-abortion majority that supports Roe v. Wade, which allows virtually unlimited abortions throughout pregnancy and essentially prevents states from protecting most unborn children.
The North Dakota law was controversial even among some pro-lifers, not because they oppose banning abortions but because they believed that it would be overturned and the state would be forced to pay abortion activists’ legal costs. Such groups are working to change the courts so Roe can be overturned and legislation like the Heartbeat bill and others can be approved to provide legal protection for unborn children.