On Wednesday, a federal judge overturned a North Dakota law banning abortions after six weeks. Under this law – also referred to as the “fetal heartbeat” law – a doctor who performed an abortion after six weeks would’ve been charged with a felony and sentenced to five years in prison.
“The North Dakota strict ban on abortions at the time when a ‘heartbeat’ has been detected – essentially banning all abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy – cannot withstand a constitutional challenge,” writes U.S. District Judge Daniel L. Hovland. “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. The United States Supreme Court has clearly determined the dispositive issue presented in this lawsuit. This court is not free to impose its own view of the law.”
Reproductive rights advocates celebrated the victory, but they also expressed fatigue from having to repeatedly go to court to preserve access to abortion care.
“The court was correct to call this law exactly what it is: a blatant violation of the constitutional guarantees afforded to all woman,” says Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.