(REVISED 6.2.2016) In 2013, North Dakota passed a blatantly
unconstitutional ban on pre-viability abortion that would prohibit abortion as
early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
Physicians violating the ban would face up to five years in prison.
clear rulings that states may not ban abortion before viability, some
politicians have passed laws like this one to do just that. North Dakota’s law was among the most extreme
of the attempts to ban abortion pre-viability.
In requiring a doctor to attempt to detect a fetal “heartbeat” before
performing an abortion, and then banning abortion if cardiac activity is
detected, North Dakota effectively banned all abortions beginning at six weeks of
pregnancy. The majority of abortions
take place between seven and twelve weeks of pregnancy.
Management Corp, d/b/a Red River Women’s Clinic, Kathryn Eggleston, M.D.
Center Attorney(s): Janet Crepps, David Brown, Zoe Levine
Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: Thomas Dickson (Dickson Law Office)
The Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the law on behalf of North Dakota’s only abortion clinic, one of
its doctors, and the clinic’s patients. The
Center filed its lawsuit in June of 2013, arguing that the ban violated
patients’ Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection of
the laws. North Dakota contended that the law did not ban pre-viability
abortions because the state believes viability begins at conception and that Roe v. Wade should be overturned. North
Dakota submitted voluminous papers, including arguments that being forced to
carry a pregnancy to term is not an economic burden to women and does not
hinder a woman’s ability to continue her education or participate in the
workforce, and that abortion has hurt the economy of North Dakota because of
the loss of potential wage earners.
summary judgment in April 2014, invalidating the law as unconstitutional. The
state appealed in May 2014, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth
Circuit heard oral argument in the case in January 2015. On July 22, the Eighth Circuit upheld the trial court’s decision that the law was unconstitutional. On November 10, the State filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court, asking them to review the case. On January 25, 2016, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case and on April 13, the trial court adopted a settlement stipulation between the Plaintiffs and the State ordering that the state of North Dakota pay $245,000 in attorney’s fees and costs. This case is now over and the ban has been permanently struck down as unconstitutional.