North Dakota’s “Heartbeat Law” Temporarily Blocked

We’ve written before about North Dakota’s attempts to pass the most restrictive abortion law in the nation: a ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected, which can be as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. The law was scheduled to take effect on August 1.

Yesterday, a federal judge temporarily blocked the law from going into effect. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland wrote that:

“There is no question that (the North Dakota law) is in direct contradiction to a litany of United States Supreme Court cases addressing restraints on abortion … (It) is clearly an invalid and unconstitutional law based on the United States Supreme Court precedent in Roe v. Wade from 1973 … and the progeny of cases that have followed.”

Bills, Bills, Bills

Congratulations, Mississippi, you’re a trendsetter. As anti-choice politicians push forward in their bid to close the last abortion clinic in the state, legislators in North Dakota are seeking to close their state’s only clinic, too. Yesterday, state lawmakers passed a bill that requires physicians providing abortions at the Red River Clinic in Fargo to have admitting privileges at area hospitals—the same tactic that is threatening Mississippi’s Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO).

The Red River clinic has often been the target of harassment and threats, and the physicians that work there don’t actually live in the state; in an arrangement similar to the one at JWHO, they travel from other states to provide abortion care. It’s too early to tell if hospitals in the Fargo area will grant these privileges, but as Amanda Marcotte pointed out in The American Prospect, “The chances of the doctors getting the privileges now are low, because hospitals don’t want to draw the same protests” as the clinic has faced.

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Colorado Abortion Opponents Will Reintroduce Fetal Personhood Bill

Abortion opponents in Colorado lost a major ballot initiative in November when the state’s voters rejected a proposed amendment to Colorado’s constitution that would have granted personhood to a fertilized embryo. Not content to rest on their laurels, abortion opponents will start collecting signatures tomorrow in order to put the same bill on the 2010 ballot.

Colorado Right to Life and Personhood USA say they will submit a new initiative Thursday to the Colorado Legislative Council in hopes of getting the measure on 2010 ballots. Last year, Colorado voted 3-to-1 against a similar measure to define fertilized human embryos as people in the state constitution. . . Abortion opponents say they think they’ll fare better next year in Colorado with better funding and a new campaign strategy. (source)

Voters in Georgia and Oregon have rejected this type of legislation, and the North Dakota legislature rejected a similar bill in February. The intent of these bills is clear – anti-choicers hope that the bills will make an end run around abortion by defining a fetus as a person and endowing the fetus with civil rights. However, Gender Equality Law explains that the effects go far beyond abortion and will have negative consequences for a broad range of reproductive health services. [Read more...]