Well, I’ll be damned: some good news in the battle for reproductive rights!

Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit permanently struck down North Dakota’s six-week ban on abortion—the country’s earliest and most extreme, as many women don’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks—affirming a previous ruling against the ban as constitutional.

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North Dakota’s “fetal heartbeat” law was approved by the state’s Republican-led legislature and Gov. Jack Dalrymple in March 2013, along with several other pro-life measures meant to ensure the near-impossibility of obtaining a safe and legal abortion in the state. In July of that year, the law was put on hold after the Center for Reproductive Rights sued on behalf of the Red River Clinic, the only remaining abortion provider in the state. The law was officially blocked by a judge in April 2014, who wrote: “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.”

In contrast to the terrifying wave of Republican-led legislation that indirectly (but effectively) erode a woman’s right to abortion by attempting to shut down clinics, North Dakota’s fetal heartbeat law was built as a direct challenge to Roe vs. Wade. The 1973 law allows abortion up to the point of fetal viability, estimated around 24 weeks; in the appeals process, state attorneys presented an atrocious affidavit from one Dr. Jerry M. Obritsch claiming that since new embryos can survive for several days in a test tube, viability begins at conception.

Nancy Northrop, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement following the ruling:

“Today’s decision reaffirms that the U.S. Constitution protects women from the legislative attacks of politicians who would deny them their right to safely and legally end a pregnancy.

No woman should ever have to fear her constitutional rights could disappear overnight by virtue of where she lives. It’s beyond time these anti-choice politicians in North Dakota and across the U.S. finally start focusing on laws and policies that actually matter to women and their families and put an end to relentless attacks on women’s health and rights.”


Contact the author at ellie@jezebel.com.

Image via Associated Press.