Supreme Court Rejects Review of North Dakota Abortion Ban

News: Government
by Rodney Pelletier  •  •  January 25, 2016   

Fetal Heartbeat Law remains unconstitutional

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WASHINGTON ( - The U.S. Supreme Court is rejecting review of a North Dakota law criminalizing abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be discerned — usually at the sixth week of gestation.

In 2013 North Dakota lawmakers enacted the Fetal Heartbeat Law, the strictest abortion law in the United States. A federal district court immediately blocked it, and in April 2014 the same court blocked it permanently. North Dakota attorney general Wayne Stenehjem appealed the injunction to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the injunction the next year.

District court judge Daniel Hovland held that the law contradicted the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, writing that "no state may deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at a point prior to viability." At the time of Roe v. Wade, viability was defined as being between 24 and 28 weeks. In 1992, the Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v. Casey created a new standard for determining whether abortion restrictions were constitutional — the "undue burden" standard, which shifts the focus from viability to the burden placed on the mother.

In November, Stenehjem petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. In an order issued Monday, the High Court declined.

This is one of the latest refusals of the Supreme Court to review a state law limiting abortions. Last week the High Court refused to review an Arkansas ban on 12-week abortions, and before that an Arizona law to limit abortions to 20 weeks and above.

The Court has, however, accepted a major abortion case for review involving a Texas law mandating that abortion clinics conform to the same building standards as medical clinics. The ruling is expected within the next several months.

Adversaries of the Fetal Heartbeat Bill claimed, among other reasons, that it violated the 14th Amendment, which forbids states from denying any person "life, liberty or property, without due process of law."

North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple said in 2013 when the law was enacted that it was "a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade."

Stenehjem declared, "We knew just going in it was going to be a long shot. ... This is the end of what we can do."


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