Federal Judge Overturns Strict North Dakota Abortion Law

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 16 2014 8:05 PM

Federal Judge Overturns Strict North Dakota Abortion Law

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A federal judge overturns North Dakota's strict "fetal heartbeat" abortion law.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

A federal judge weighed in on North Dakota’s strict abortion law on Wednesday, ruling the state’s ban on abortions as early as six-weeks into a pregnancy was “invalid and unconstitutional.” North Dakota’s “fetal heartbeat law” was considered the most restrictive in the country and banned abortions as soon as the fetus’ heartbeat could be detected, which can occur six weeks after conception, before many women know they’re pregnant, the Associated Press reports.

"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," U.S. District Court Judge Daniel 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."

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Supporters of North Dakota’s abortion law, which was set to take effect on August 1, say it is “a challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 ruling that legalized abortion up until a fetus is considered viable, usually at 22 to 24 weeks,” according to the AP. North Dakota is one of several conservative states that have enacted strict abortion laws recently. Arkansas passed a similar measure, banning abortions beginning 12 weeks into a pregnancy, but it was overturned by a federal court. North Dakota’s Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said he was looking into whether to appeal the decision. "There are those who believed that this was a challenge that could go to the Supreme Court," Stenehjem told the AP. "Whether or not that's likely is something we need to confer about."

 

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.