The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that North Dakota officials cannot enforce a controversial “fetal heartbeat” law that would have banned abortions as early as six weeks.
The justices upheld a lower court’s ruling from July 2015, which struck down the measure. North Dakota’s sole abortion clinic filed the lawsuit challenging the measure shortly after the law was approved in 2013.
North Dakota’s law – one of the strictest in the country – has been closely watched in the courts as many other GOP-led states look to tighten their abortion standards.
That term, however, has been deeply disputed, with a growing number of states creating bans on abortions after certain timelines. The GOP-led House approved its own version of the bill, the Pain-Capable Child Protection Act, last year, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks.
The decision was praised by abortion-rights groups, who called on the Supreme Court to again take their side in a high-stakes case involving a strict Texas abortion law later this spring.
“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," Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, wrote in a statement.