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North Dakota appealing judge's decision to strike down fetal heartbeat abortion ban

North Dakota Lawmaker: “The majority of North Dakotans agree on this question and they deserve to be heard. The baby’s heartbeat deserves to be heard, too … To stop at a lower court level is to deny justice.”
By JC Sevcik   |   May 14, 2014 at 6:16 PM   |   Comments

BISMARCK, N.D., May 14 (UPI) -- North Dakota State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has appealed last month's decision by U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland to strike down the state's six-week "fetal heartbeat" abortion ban as "invalid and unconstitutional," saying more than one judge should have a chance to review the law.

The law would ban abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat could be detected, as early as six weeks in some pregnancies.

On April 16, Hovland 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," referring to the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision that declares abortion legal until a fetus is viable, and adding that the state of North Dakota "has presented no reliable medical evidence to justify the passage of this troubling law."

Stenehejm is acting at the behest of more than 60 state legislator's, who sent the attorney general a letter signed by all requesting he appeal the decision. The letter was organized by State Rep. Bette Grande, R-Fargo, who introduced the original bill. In all, 63 lawmakers signed the letter, including two democrats, Rep. Naomi Muscha of Enderlin and Sen. David O'Connell of Lansford.

In the letter urging the attorney general to appeal the decision to a higher court, Grande called the law "a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade," who, according to Grande, "has not directly examined questions of the baby's growth and development in the womb" despite the advances made in medical science since 1973.

"The majority of North Dakotans agree on this question and they deserve to be heard," Grande's letter reads, according to the Bemidji Pioneer. "The baby's heartbeat deserves to be heard, too. ... To stop at a lower court level is to deny justice."

But David Brown, a staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, who filed the lawsuit opposing the ban last June on behalf Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo, North Dakota's one and only abortion provider, said the Supreme Court "has never even so much as hinted that they intend to reverse Roe v. Wade, and that is what would be required to uphold this law. They've had plenty of opportunities to do what Rep. Grande seems to be urging in her letter, and they've never once done so. I just don't see a reason to believe they will."

Brown and the center are prepared for the appeal.

"We'll do whatever's in our power to ensure the reproductive rights of North Dakota women are safeguarded," he said.

Follow @JCSevcik and @UPI on Twitter.
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