As expected, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a ruling from an appellate court blocking North Dakota’s ban of abortions at 6 weeks of pregnancy. Just last week, the Court declined to review a 12-week ban on abortion in Arkansas, which was also struck down by an appellate court. Like the Arkansas law, the North Dakota law is now permanently banned from being enforced.
As GOP-dominated legislatures step up attacks on reproductive rights, the high court remains the last line of defense, something worth keeping in mind with a presidential election around the corner.
Press release from the Center for Reproductive Rights:
The U.S. Supreme Court today refused to review North Dakota’s blatantly unconstitutional ban on abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy—allowing a July 2015 ruling from an appellate court striking the measure to stand.
“Whether in North Dakota, Arkansas, or Texas, politicians simply cannot rob women of their constitutional rights,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “This utterly cruel and unconstitutional ban would have made North Dakota the first state since Roe v. Wade to effectively ban abortion—with countless women left to pay the price.
“We continue to look to the nation’s highest court to protect the rights, health, and dignity of millions of women and now strike down Texas’ clinic shutdown law.”
Today’s order comes just over two months after the Supreme Court agreed to review Texas’s clinic shutdown law— a measure that has already shuttered half of the abortion providers in Texas, and is poised to leave the nation’s second-largest state with 10 or fewer abortion clinics—and less than one week after the Supreme Court refused to review Arkansas’ ban on abortion at twelve weeks of pregnancy.
The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held—first in Roe v. Wade and again in Planned Parenthood v. Casey—that women have a constitutional right to decide whether to end or continue a pregnancy and states cannot ban abortion prior to viability. The Supreme Court refused to review a decision permanently blocking Arizona’s ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy in 2013, and courts in Idaho and Georgia have also blocked similar pre-viability bans.
North Dakota’s HB 1456—which was signed into law by Governor Jack Dalrymple in March 2013—is the earliest and most extreme abortion ban in the nation, making virtually all abortions in the state illegal as early as six weeks of pregnancy. The Center for Reproductive Rights and Thomas A. Dickson of the Dickson Law Office in Bismarck filed the lawsuit in June 2013 challenging the ban on behalf of Red River Women’s Clinic—the state’s sole abortion provider. A federal district court judge temporarily blocked the ban in July 2013 and then permanently blocked the law in April 2014, noting “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.” The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit permanently blocked the ban in July 2015; North Dakota asked the Supreme Court to review the appellate court’s decision in late 2015.