Published: Mon, January 25, 2016
U.S. | By Eddie Scott

Supreme Court Blocks North Dakota from Enforcing 'Fetal Heartbeat' Law

Supreme Court Blocks North Dakota from Enforcing 'Fetal Heartbeat' Law

The high court last week rejected Arkansas' bid to enforce its own fetal heartbeat law, banning some abortions at 12 weeks. "We knew it was unlikely and it came as no surprise", North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said of the high court's refusal to review the case.

By refusing to hear the case, the Supreme Court stood by the ruling that the six-week ban is unconstitutional and can’t be law. It goes on to say that "personal liberty is not a license to kill or otherwise destroy any form of human life", and that the state has an interest in stopping abortions, unless the safety of the mother is in question.

The law, the state legislature passed and North Dakota's governor signed, banned most abortions after six weeks, when a fetal heartbeat can be first detected.

The U.S. Supreme Court, which hears about 100 of the 7,500 cases presented for consideration each year, will soon be debating a Texas abortion law.

Supporters and opponents alike said that the law would have implemented the strictest regulations on abortion in the country.

The judges said the laws were inconsistent with the standard set by the Supreme Court that generally ties abortion restrictions to the viability of the fetus. Stenehjem said that the state will no pursue the matter any further in the courts.

That case revolves around laws in Texas requiring clinics to have hospital-admitting privileges and meet the requirements of ambulatory surgical centers.


North Dakota's sole abortion clinic filed the lawsuit challenging the measure shortly after the law was approved in 2013. The nearest out-of-state abortion clinics are in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Minneapolis. A federal district court judge in July 2013 temporarily blocked the ban before permanently striking it down in April 2014, noting, "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".

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