A federal judge has struck down the most restrictive abortion law in the country, which would have blocked abortions in North Dakota after signs of a fetal heartbeat. The law would have allowed abortions to be restricted as early as six weeks after conception, Reuters reports, which is before many women know they’re pregnant. U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland permanently blocked the state from enacting the law and ruled that it’s “invalid and unconstitutional” and that it “cannot withstand a constitutional challenge.” Hovland added that the state did not provide “reliable medical evidence” to justify banning abortions when a heartbeat is detected.
While the measure was passed early last year, Hovland temporarily blocked it last July. North Dakota’s only abortion clinic, the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, filed a lawsuit against the bill in July with the help of the Center for Reproductive Rights and said that if the measure was enacted, it would have essentially prohibited them from performing any abortions. North Dakotan women would have been left with no choice but to visit clinics 250 miles away in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, or in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In January, the U.S Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a ruling in Arizona that restricted abortions in the state at 20 weeks. The North Dakota attorney general’s office has not yet made a comment on the ruling.