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N.D. Attorney General To Petition Supreme Court To Review 'Heartbeat' Abortion Ban

N.D. Attorney General To Petition Supreme Court To Review 'Heartbeat' Abortion Ban

October 16, 2015 — North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem (R) on Wednesday said he will file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the court to review a lower court decision overturning a state law (HB 1456) that banned abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detectable, the AP/Greenfield Daily Reporter reports (MacPherson/Nicholson, AP/Greenfield Daily Reporter, 10/14).


The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit against the North Dakota law, which banned abortion as early as six weeks, in June 2013 on behalf of the Red River Women's Clinic of Fargo (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/23). According to the Dickinson Press, the law, which make performing an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detectable a Class C felony, would be the most restrictive abortion ban in the country (Nowatzki, Dickinson Press, 10/14).

Later in 2013, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the law. In April 2014, a federal judge struck down the law as an "invalid and unconstitutional" measure that "cannot withstand a constitutional challenge."

In July, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court decision overturning the law. However, the 8th Circuit also urged the Supreme Court to revisit the fetal viability standard (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/23).

Appeal Details

According to the Dickinson Press, the deadline for Stenehjem to file the appeal is Oct. 20. Stenehjem said he has yet received a response on his request for an extension (Dickinson Press, 10/14).

Meanwhile, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) earlier this month asked the Supreme Court to overturn a separate decision by the 8th Circuit that ruled part of a state law (Act 301) prohibiting abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy unconstitutional (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/7).


Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues associate at the Guttmacher Institute, said the Supreme Court is unlikely to accept the case, noting, "The Court did not take the appeal of the Arizona restriction that would have banned abortion at 18 weeks of pregnancy, so it seems unlikely that this case would be accepted." She added, "While abortion rights have been eroded over time, the Court has nonetheless upheld the essential holdings in Roe" (AP/Greenfield Daily Reporter, 10/14).

In a statement, CRR senior counsel Janet Crepps said, "North Dakota's abortion ban is as cruel as it is unconstitutional, flying in the face of decades of Supreme Court precedent while threatening women's health in the process," adding, "We are confident the nation's highest court will refuse to review the measure" (Dickinson Press, 10/14).