Appeals court strikes down North Dakota ‘heartbeat’ abortion ban

7-week-embryoThe 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has backed a lower court’s decision to deem North Dakota’s heartbeat abortion ban unconstitutional, the Associated Press reports.

The 2013 law prohibits abortion at six weeks of pregnancy, long before Roe v. Wade’s conception of viability at around 22 weeks, so the court ruled that “because we are bound by Supreme Court precedent holding that states may not prohibit pre-viability abortions, we must affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the plaintiffs.”However, proponents of the law anticipated that the law would be a catalyst for directly challenging Roe, with Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple calling it “a legitimate attempt by a state Legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade.”

Lawmakers have set aside $800,000 for defending pro-life laws in court, and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says his office is currently reviewing whether to appeal the case further.

Currently, most pro-life legislative strategy focuses on incremental measures to limit aspects of the debate not explicitly cordoned off by the Supreme Court, such as abortions around viability, informed-consent requirements, and health standards for abortion clinics.

Some pro-lifers advocate more ambitious and confrontational action such as the North Dakota law, while others fear forcing the issue back to the court before replacing at least one more of its pro-abortion justices could further entrench Roe.

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