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BISMARK, ND, July 22, 2013 ( – A U.S. District judge has halted a North Dakota law that would have banned abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

The law, which prevents abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, would have taken effect on August 1. 

Judge Daniel Hovland granted a temporary injunction today. In his ruling he called the law “clearly unconstitutional.” 


“The United States Supreme Court has unequivocally said that no state may deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at a point prior to viability,” he wrote. 

Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple signed the bill on March 26, as part of a package of pro-life legislation that also would also end abortions based on birth defects such as Down syndrome and require abortionists to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

But the Center for Reproductive Rights promised a court challenge before the ink was dry.

“North Dakota has set a new standard for extreme hostility toward the rights and health of women, the U.S. Constitution, and 40 years of Supreme Court precedent,” Nancy Northup, the center's president and chief executive, said at the time.

Governor Dalrymple received death threats for signing the pro-life legislation.

Today's injunction comes just one week after another judge declared a North Dakota law prohibiting the off-label use of Cytotec to induce a chemical abortion unconstitutional, because it violates women's right to “liberty” and the “pursuit of happiness.”

East Central Judge Wickham Corwin said the U.S. Constitution guarantees “reproductive rights” based on “the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the controlling word is 'liberty.'”

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“Liberty is also one of the freedoms protected by the Constitution of North Dakota,” he added. “Our state constitution has always recognized liberty as one of the foremost of the 'inalienable rights' that must be zealously protected. The same is true of the pursuit of happiness, a right nowhere mentioned in the federal constitution.”

The state's Catholic leadership criticized the ruling, effectively weaving abortion-on-demand into the American credo.

“A lone judge sitting in Fargo has declared that the North Dakota Constitution makes abortion a ‘fundamental’ right subject to practically no limitations,” Bishop David Kagan of Bismarck and Bishop John Folda of Fargo said.

They warned that Judge Wickham Corwin's actions presented a threat to “all of the state’s pro-life and pro-women laws.”