[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of North Dakota [official website] on Wednesday overturned [opinion, PDF] a North Dakota law [HB 1456, PDF] that prohibits physicians from performing abortions on women as soon as the fetus has a detectable heartbeat. This would disallow abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before the fetus is considered viable. US District Judge Daniel Hovland stated in his ruling that “[t]he 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.” North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem [official website] reported that the ruling did not come as a surprise, as Hovland had issued a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] last July to stop the law from taking effect until he considered the merits of the lawsuit. Stenehjem also stated that he was unsure whether an appeal would be initiated against the ruling.
North Dakota’s abortion laws have faced numerous legal challenges. In September Hovland partially dismissed [JURIST report] a lawsuit against North Dakota’s law that prohibits “abortion for sex selection or genetic abnormalities.” Hovland had granted the request by the Red River Women’s Clinic to drop the gender and genetic abnormalities part of the challenge two days earlier. In early August Cass County District Court Judge Wickham Corwin granted a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] against legislation that would have forced the Red River Women’s Clinic to close. The law [SB 2305, PDF] imposes requirements that any physician performing abortions in the state must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, but the Red River Clinic is frequently forced to fly in physicians from out of state. Any physician who fails to comply with the admitting privileges requirement could be prosecuted for a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $3,000 fine.