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N.D. Asks SCOTUS To Review Ruling Against 'Heartbeat' Ban

N.D. Asks SCOTUS To Review Ruling Against 'Heartbeat' Ban

November 23, 2015 — North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem (R) asked the Supreme Court to review a lower federal court ruling that struck down a state law (HB 1456) that could ban abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy, the Grand Forks Herald reports (Nowatzki, Grand Forks Herald, 11/19).

Background

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit against the North Dakota law in June 2013 on behalf of the Red River Women's Clinic of Fargo. The law, which would make performing an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detectable a Class C felony, would be the most restrictive abortion ban in the country.

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, 10/22).

SCOTUS Review Unlikely

Abortion-rights supporters and opponents have said it is unlikely that the Supreme Court will hear the case, pointing to the Supreme Court's decision last year not to review a lower court ruling striking down an Arizona 20-week ban (HB 2036).

CRR attorney David Brown added that the Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed Roe v. Wade. He noted, "I don't think anyone wants to see doctors going to prison for performing abortion," adding, "I think this law is an example of politicians' excess, if nothing else."

According to Brown, the Supreme Court could decide whether to hear the case by January or February of next year, though the justices can allow the case to pend for an indefinite amount of time.

Meanwhile, Arkansas also has a pending petition for Supreme Court review regarding an Arkansas law (Act 301) that bans abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy (Grand Forks Herald, 11/19).