Federal Judge Blocks North Dakota New Restrictive Abortion Law

| by Amanda Schallert
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A federal judge blocked a North Dakota law that would bar women from obtaining abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, a deadline abortion rights advocates call extremely restrictive.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland blocked the law on Monday because he claimed it blatantly violated abortion rights set by previous Supreme Court cases and was not in line with the Constitution, according to the Huffington Post.

North Dakota’s only abortion clinic — Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo — opposed the new law and filed a lawsuit against it in June. 

Under the new law — which passed in March and would have gone into effect Aug. 1 — women could not get abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, according to Reuters.

Abortion rights advocates have said some women do not even know they are pregnant at six weeks.

"There is no question that (the North Dakota law) is in direct contradiction to a litany of United States Supreme Court cases addressing restraints on abortion," Hovland wrote in his ruling. " (It) is clearly an invalid and unconstitutional law based on the United States Supreme Court precedent in Roe v. Wade from 1973 ... and the progeny of cases that have followed."

The new law sets about a 17-week earlier cut-off date for abortions than the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling made abortion legal until about 22 to 24 weeks into pregnancy.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said the state plans to continue its push for the new restriction on abortion and go to trial over the law’s constitutionality.

"We have our job to do," Stenehjem said. "We need to convince (Hovland) why the Legislature wanted to enact the law."

Red River Women’s Clinic’s lawsuit addresses multiple North Dakota efforts to restrict abortion rights in the state, including a law that would prevent women from having abortions if they think they’re babies have genetic defects.

About a dozen other states have banned women from having most abortions after they are 20 weeks pregnant. 

In May, a federal judge blocked a new law in Arkansas — which was also passed in March — that banned most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Sources: Huffington Post, Reuters