On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland struck down North Dakota’s “strictest in the nation” anti-abortion law. The judge declared the controversial law “invalid and unconstitutional”, arguing that:
The United States Supreme Court has spoken and has unequivocally said no state may deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at a point prior to viability. The controversy over a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion will never end. The issue is undoubtedly one of the most divisive of social issues. The United States Supreme Court will eventually weigh in on this emotionally-fraught issue but, until that occurs, this Court is obligated to uphold existing Supreme Court precedent.
The law would have banned abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, but the judge noted that Roe v Wade protects a woman’s right to choose at least up to the point of viability which is around 22 to 24 weeks. A similar anti-abortion law in Arkansas was struck down by a judge earlier in 2014.
The ruling represents a legal victory for Red River Women’s Clinic, the only abortion provider in the state of North Dakota, which filed suit against the law shortly after it passed. National pro-choice groups quickly voiced approval for the judge’s decision. Nancy Northup, President of the Center for Reproductive Rights had this to say:
Today’s decision puts a stop to this attempt by North Dakota politicians to send the women of their state back to the dark days before Roe v. Wade, when reproductive health care options were limited at best and deadly at worst.
Women in North Dakota already face innumerable obstacles to safely and legally ending a pregnancy—and this law would have completely eliminated all safe or legal options for hundreds of miles in every direction.
The court was correct to call this law exactly what it is: a blatant violation of the constitutional guarantees afforded to all women. But women should not be forced to go to court, year after year in state after state, to protect their constitutional rights. We hope today’s decision, along with the long line of decisions striking down these attempts to choke off access to safe and legal abortion services in the U.S., sends a strong message to politicians across the country that our rights cannot be legislated away.
The judge’s ruling is not likely to stop Republican Tea Party-dominated state legislatures from continuing their assault on women’s reproductive rights, but it is a reminder to anti-choice lawmakers that the laws they pass are unconstitutional and that they will be struck down in court.