U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal of Ruling Striking Down Fetal Heartbeat Bill

Ultrasound IIWASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal of a ruling that struck down a North Dakota law that banned abortions when a heartbeat is detected, allowing the lower court decision to stand.

As previously reported, lawmakers in the state passed HB 1456 in March 2013, which was later signed by Governor Jack Dalrymple. It would require any abortionist in the state to check for a fetal heartbeat, which some note can be detected by medical equipment as early as 12 weeks. However, fetal development experts state that an infant’s heart begins beating just 20-25 days after conception.

If the abortionist performed the abortion despite the existence of a heartbeat, he or she would face felony charges, and could spend up to five years in prison and/or pay up to $5,000 in fines.

The New York Center for Reproductive Rights soon filed suit on behalf of the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, which is the last remaining abortion facility in the state.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland, nominated to the bench by then-President George W. Bush, issued a permanent injunction against the legislation the following year, officially declaring the law to be “invalid and unconstitutional.”

“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,” he wrote. “The controversy over a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion will never end.”

The state again appealed, but the ruling was upheld unanimously by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, although the judges stated that there are “good reasons exist for the [U.S. Supreme Court] to reevaluate its jurisprudence” and revisit the issue of viability and the scientific advances surrounding the unborn. It noted that Roe v. Wade “discounts the legislative branch’s recognized interest in protecting unborn children.”

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North Dakota officials then appealed to the Supreme Court, but on Monday, the court declined to hear the case without comment.

“We’re extremely pleased that the Supreme Court has said that North Dakota women have the same rights as women all across this country, and North Dakota women should not be used as pawns in extremist politicians’ games,” Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River abortion facility, told InfoForum.

However, former state representative Bette Grande of Fargo, who first introduced the legislation, told reporters that the battle was “absolutely worth it.”

“We’ve had such advances in technology and medicine, there comes a time we have to truly look at what is in the womb,” she said.

“We don’t stop beating hearts in our society,” Grande also stated in 2014. “We do everything to save the beating heart. The life is that beating heart. It doesn’t matter if we have one clinic in North Dakota or 50 clinics in North Dakota.”


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