Federal Judge Overturns N.D. Abortion Ban

A federal judge on Wednesday overturned a North Dakota law that bans abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy and before many women know they’re pregnant.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland said the law is “invalid and unconstitutional” and that it “cannot withstand a constitutional challenge.” The state attorney general said he was looking at whether to appeal the decision by the Bismarck-based judge.

North Dakota is among several conservative states that have passed new abortion restrictions in recent years, but abortion rights supporters called North Dakota’s fetal heartbeat law the most restrictive in the country. A fetal heartbeat law passed in Arkansas would ban abortions at 12 weeks into pregnancy, but it was overturned by another federal judge. The state’s attorney general has said he will appeal.

North Dakota’s heartbeat measure was among four anti-abortion bills that Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed into law last year with overwhelming support from the state’s Republican-led Legislature. Backed by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, the state’s only abortion clinic, the Red River Clinic in Fargo, filed a lawsuit against the heartbeat law last July.