The US Supreme Court has granted North Dakota an extension beyond Tuesday’s deadline to petition it to hear the case of the state’s heartbeat abortion ban.
The 2013 law prohibits abortion at the point at which a preborn baby’s heartbeat can first be detected, at approximately six weeks of pregnancy. The Center for Reproductive Rights and the state’s sole abortion provider, Red River Women’s Clinic, soon challenged the law.
US District Court Judge Daniel Hovland blocked the law as an unconstitutional infringement on Roe v. Wade in April 2014, and an 8th Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld his decision in July.
If the Supreme Court takes the case, it could be the closest they’ve come to reconsidering Roe v. Wade’s central holding since the original 1973 decision.
Conservative justices such as Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas have repeatedly written that there is no constitutional right to abortion since then, but all of SCOTUS’s abortion cases since then have revolved around peripheral regulations of abortion or prohibiting partial-birth abortion, a particular procedure well after the limits defined in Roe.
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem conceded it would be a “longshot” to expect the Supreme Court to uphold a law limiting abortions to the first five weeks of pregnancy, but maintained it was his duty to defend his state’s laws in court.