BISMARCK,N.D. — North Dakota’s law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, striking down what critics had called the nation’s most extreme limit on the procedure.
The law, which was approved last year but never took effect, made it a crime for a woman to abort a fetus with a detectable heartbeat. Offending doctors faced up to five years in prison. An exception was allowed for medical emergencies.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland said the law was “in direct contradiction” to the Supreme Court’s 40-year-old decision in Roe v. Wade, which established “viability” as the critical point at which states could begin restricting abortions. North Dakota and several other states already ban abortions when a fetus is considered viable, typically at about four months.