The Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo, N.D.,
sued the state over its ban on abortions after
six weeks of pregnancy.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland in Bismarck, North Dakota, temporarily blocked a state law Monday that would prohibit abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The law was slated to take effect Aug. 1. Combined with three other newly passed laws, it would give North Dakota the strictest abortion regulations in the United States.
The lawsuit Hovland ruled on was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo. It is the only abortion clinic in North Dakota:
The suit is also challenging the constitutionality of two other measures adopted by North Dakota this year: one barring abortion because of genetic defects in the fetus, the first provision of its kind in the country; and one barring abortions for the purpose of sex selection.
The challenged measures “seek to interfere directly in personal, private medical decisions that the Constitution and more than 40 years of U.S. Supreme Court precedent guarantee to women as a fundamental right,” said Nancy Northup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Last May, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright in Little Rock, Arkansas, issued a temporary injunction blocking the implementation of a law that would ban abortions after 12 weeks. On Friday, attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) asked
Wright to permanently block the ban.
As in the North Dakota case, reproductive rights advocates argue that the Arkansas law violates the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationally until a fetus can survive outside the womb—fetal viability—about 24 weeks into the pregnancy. The six-week limit is based on when a "fetal heartbeat" can be detected. While there is an early heartbeat, a study published by the Journal of the Royal Society Interface Focus in February found that heart cells don't become fully organized as muscle tissue until the 20th week of pregnancy. In fact, the fetal heart at six weeks is a hollow tube just one cell layer thick. Detecting a fetal heartbeat requires women to undergo an invasive tranvaginal ultrasound, a technique that some reproductive rights advocates have likened to state-sanctioned rape.
Texas recently passed a law that bans abortions after 20 weeks. But three lawmakers there introduced a bill Thursday that would bar abortions after six weeks. It has little chance of being passed because the legislative session ends July 31 and therefore seems more like an effort by the lawmakers to prove their anti-abortion fervor.
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