North Dakota’s Supreme Court keeps abortion ban on hold for now : NPR

North Dakota’s Supreme Court keeps abortion ban on hold for now : NPR

The North Dakota Supreme Court has held off on lifting a controversial abortion ban, leaving in place a law that has been heavily criticized by reproductive rights advocates.

The ban, passed in 2013, prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The law was immediately challenged in court, and a federal judge struck it down in 2014.

The state appealed the ruling, and the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in December. The court’s decision, released Tuesday, declined to rule on the merits of the case and instead sent it back to the trial court for additional briefing.

The justices cited a number of legal issues that the lower court had not yet considered, including whether North Dakota can legally restrict abortions before a fetus is viable outside the womb.

The court’s decision is only a temporary reprieve for reproductive rights advocates. A ruling on the merits of the case is expected in the coming months.

The law has been widely criticized by reproductive rights groups, who argue it is unconstitutional and puts an undue burden on women seeking abortions.

The North Dakota Supreme Court’s decision to keep the abortion ban on hold, pending the additional briefing, is a setback for the state’s anti-abortion forces. However, if the court ultimately upholds the ban, it would be a major victory for the anti-abortion movement and could open the door to similar laws in other states.