(Photo: Reuters/Dan Koeck)
A federal judge has granted a temporary injunction Monday blocking North Dakota's ban on abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur as early as six weeks of pregnancy.
The law, combined with three other abortion measures passed earlier this year, would have given the state the strictest abortion laws in the country, had it gone into effect on August 1 as originally planned.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland granted the temporary injunction to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the only abortion clinic in the state, Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo.
The new law would require the state's only abortion clinic to perform ultrasounds on women seeking an abortion 24 hours before the scheduled procedure.
Hovland wrote in his opinion of the law that the six-week abortion ban is "clearly an invalid and unconstitutional law" based on the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade.
"There is no question that [the North Dakota law] is in direct contradiction to a litany of United States Supreme Court cases addressing restraints on abortion," Hovland wrote in his ruling.
"[It] is clearly an invalid and unconstitutional law based on the United States Supreme Court precedent in Roe v. Wade from 1973 […] and the progeny of cases that have followed," Hovland added.
Although the office of North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) declined to comment on Monday's ruling, Gov. Dalrymple previously has said that the purpose of the law was to test the boundaries of Roe v. Wade.
"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," Dalrymple said in a statement when he signed the bill into law in March.
Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women's Clinic, told MSNBC in an interview that she was "pleased and relieved" of the temporary injunction granted to the abortion clinic, which would have had to stop performing 90 percent of its abortion procedures, had the law been put into effect on August 1.
"I don't think any of these laws have anything to do with women's health," Kromenaker told MSNBC on Monday.
"Six weeks is extremely early, before many women even know they're pregnant. By stopping this law, it will give women an opportunity to find out they're pregnant and think through their decision," Kromenaker added.
In addition to challenging the fetal heartbeat law, the suit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights also contests two other pro-life measures passed by North Dakota legislature earlier this year, the first barring abortions due to genetic defects, and the second barring abortions due to gender selection.
Nancy Northup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, told the Daily Kos that these measures "seek to interfere directly in personal, private medical decisions that the Constitution and more than 40 years of U.S. Supreme Court precedent guarantee to women as a fundamental right."
So far, a dozen states have approved bans on abortions after 20 weeks in pregnancy. Arkansas also passed a law earlier this year giving it the second-strictest abortion laws, behind North Dakota, in banning most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy; this law, like North Dakota's, was temporarily blocked by a judge in May.
A series of pro-life legislation is currently being debated in several states; the most publicized being the recent debate in Texas regarding a bill which bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Although the bill was initially filibustered, Republican Gov. Rick Perry called a special session of the state legislature to have the bill reconsidered.
The bill passed, and Perry signed it into law last Thursday, saying it further cemented the pro-life culture in Texas.
"This is an important day for those who support life and for those who support the health of Texas women," Perry said in a statement. "In signing House Bill 2 today, we celebrate and further cement the foundation on which the culture of life in Texas is built."