North Dakota is the latest state to have a new abortion law blocked in court. U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland issued a temporary injunction Monday to stop a North Dakota law banning abortions after six weeks from taking effect on August 1. Hovland wrote that the ban is "clearly invalid and unconstitutional." That follows similar decisions made by federal judges in Wisconsin and Arizona recently.
The law, which would have required doctors to check for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion, is one of the strictest to be passed in the nation. Doctors who violated it by performing an abortion after a heartbeat was detected would have faced up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Hovland wrote in his decision:
"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. [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."
Wisconsin and Arizona have also passed restrictive abortion laws only to have them blocked or struck down by federal judges. Last week, a federal judge in Wisconsin extended a block on a law requiring abortion clinics to have hospital admitting privileges. The law was set to take effect July 5. In May, a federal court in Arizona struck down the state's ban on abortions after 20 weeks. Judge Marsha Berzon wrote that "a woman has a constitutional right to choose to terminate her pregnancy before the fetus is viable." Viability typically occurs at 24 weeks.
Texas remains undeterred by precedent. Last Thursday, Governor Rick Perry signed the controversial HB2 into law, which bans abortions after 20 weeks. Buoyed by that success, Republican representatives introduced a new fetal heartbeat bill that same day, which would ban abortions after six weeks. The reps who sponsored the new bill, HB59, know that it doesn't stand a chance of being passed this session, and they don't care. A spokeswoman for Rep. Dan Flynn, one of the sponsors, told the Huffington Post:
"We fully understand and recognize that the bill won't be heard, and they're okay with that. They wanted to at least put this on the radar for 2015."
Abortion rights activists plan to challenge HB2 in court.