North Dakota's Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed into law on Tuesday the country's most restrictive ban on abortions, making abortions in the state illegal once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can happen as early as six weeks into the pregnancy.
Dalrymple also signed into law on Tuesday a ban against abortion based on genetic defects, such as Down Syndrome, and endorsed a third measure which requires doctors performing abortions to be certified physicians with hospital-admitting privileges, which would make it more difficult for the state's only abortion clinic to stay open.
Under the new fetal heartbeat law, doctors caught performing abortions after six weeks of pregnancy could face a felony charge punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 penalty, although the woman receiving the abortion would not be punished.
The new law also makes no exception for abortion in cases of rape, incest, or health of the mother.
The governor said in a statement that although he does expect a court challenge of the fetal heartbeat law, he approved these measures to purposely test the boundaries of Roe v. Wade, a 1973 Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion in the U.S.
"Although the likelihood of this measure surviving a court challenge remains in question, this bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade," the governor said in statement.
"Because the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed state restrictions on the performing of abortions and because the Supreme Court has never considered this precise restriction ... the constitutionality of this measure is an open question."
With Tuesday's approval of the new fetal heartbeat law, North Dakota surpasses Arkansas with the strictest law regarding abortion.
Earlier in March, Arkansas implemented a law which bans abortions at 12 weeks and prohibits most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected by an abdominal ultrasound.
Arkansas' new law is to be implemented 90 days after the state's legislature adjourns for the session.
North Dakota's new abortion laws are to be implemented on Aug. 1.
Pro-abortion advocates have promised to contest North Dakota's new laws in a lengthy, costly court battle which they believe they will win.
"With the stroke of the governor's pen, North Dakota politicians have taken away the right of a woman to make the best decision for herself and her family," Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement, according to USA Today.
"These dangerous laws will prevent women, regardless of their circumstances, from accessing safe and legal abortion care. It is time that our elected representatives stopped playing politics with women's health," Romero added.
Foreseeing a court challenge, Dalrymple suggested the state's Legislative Assembly "before it adjourns should appropriate dollars for a litigation fund available to the Attorney General."
This is not the last strict abortion law North Dakota will see in the near future.
In November 2014, the state's voters will decide whether to define "personhood" as a fertilized egg in the state constitution.
Should the "personhood" measure pass, abortion would effectively be outlawed in the state.