A federal appeals court in Bismarck, North Dakota upheld U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland’s 2014 ruling blocking North Dakota’s fetal heartbeat anti-abortion law from going into effect. The federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday that the law, known as House Bill 1456, was unconstitutional.
Because there is no genuine dispute that H.B. 1456 generally prohibits abortions before viability — as the Supreme Court has defined that concept — and because we are bound by Supreme Court precedent holding that states may not prohibit pre-viability abortions, we must affirm [the lower court ruling].
H. B. 1456 which was passed in 2013 by a Republican dominated legislature and signed into law by GOP Governor Jack Dalrymple, would have made it a Class C felony for a doctor to perform an abortion if the fetus had a detectable heartbeat. Had the law been implemented it would have effectively banned abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
The Supreme Court has defined fetal viability as occurring around the 24th week of pregnancy. The 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling essentially prohibits states from banning abortions prior to the point of fetal viability. The appeals court argued that the North Dakota law was clearly unconstitutional because it violated the constitutional precedent set forth by the Supreme Court.
North Dakota has only one clinic in the entire state the provides abortion services. Had H.B. 1456 gone into law, some North Dakota women would have been in a situation where they were more than 7 hours driving time away from the nearest clinic that would perform abortions after the 6th week of pregnancy.
The court’s ruling affirms that women have a right to choose whether or not to terminate their pregnancy during the first trimester. North Dakota’s overzealous legislature was attempting to push through a law that clearly violated a woman’s right to choose, even in the earliest stages of her pregnancy. Thankfully, the appeals court on Wednesday put an end to that law, and upheld a woman’s right to choose in the state of North Dakota.