A restrictive North Dakota abortion law was deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge. The controversial law, dubbed the “heartbeat law,” banned most abortions after six weeks. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Daniel L. Hovland ruled that the law “cannot withstand a constitutional challenge.”
The original measure was signed into law last year. Although pro-life supporters applauded the decision, pro-choice activists argued that the law was far too restrictive.
Governor Jack Dalrympe acknowledged that the law would likely be challenged in The United States Supreme Court. However, he said “the bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade.”
In his ruling, Judge Hovland stated that the North Dakota abortion law is unconstitutional. Hovland outlines his reasoning:
“A woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy before viability has been recognized by the United States Supreme Court for more than 40 years.”
Hovland further explained that the Supreme Court “is not free to impose its own view of the law.”
Although the ruling has received stark criticism, The Center for Reproductive Rights applauded Hovland’s decision. President and CEO Nancy Northrup said the ruling “sends a strong message” to politicians and pro-life activists that women’s rights “cannot be legislated away.”
Red River Women’s Clinic is the only remaining abortion clinic in the state of North Dakota. Spokeswoman Tammi Kromenaker said the judge’s ruling will allow the clinic to better serve its patients.
Although abortions are legal nationwide, each state has imposed their own statutory time limits. Many states allow abortions up to 28 weeks. However, North Dakota’s abortion law was specifically restrictive.
For many, the debate hinges on when “life” actually begins. However, a majority of states use the post-viability rule, which bans abortion after a fetus is “able to live outside the womb.” Post-viability bans are currently active in 41 states.
Many states have spousal and parental consent laws in place. However, spousal consent laws are generally considered to be unenforceable.
MSU reports that other states have included waiting periods, informed consent rules, licensed physician requirements, and counseling regulations.
A majority of the 50 United States have restrictions, but North Dakota’s abortion law was deemed exceptionally restrictive. As stated by Judge Hovland, the law “essentially [banned] all abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy.”
As many women do not learn they are pregnant until they are six weeks along, the ban would have outlawed a majority of abortions. Although North Dakota’s abortion law was ruled unconstitutional, the debate is likely to continue.
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