WASHINGTON, March 26 (RIA Novosti) – The governor of North Dakota on Tuesday signed a law banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat—which can occur as early as six weeks into gestation—enacting the strictest abortion regulations in the United States.
Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple said Tuesday that the law will likely face legal challenges and is aimed at testing the landmark 1973 US Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortions nationwide and sparked a sharply divisive battle over reproductive rights that continues today.
“Although the likelihood of this measure surviving a court challenge remains in question, this bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade,” Dalrymple said in a statement.
According to the law, a doctor could face up to five years in prison for performing an abortion after detection of a fetal heartbeat, though women who undergo the abortions would not face the felony charge.
Abortion opponents in the United States in recent years have turned to local and state action that has chipped away at abortion rights by increasing waiting periods, requiring parental notification and other actions that have slowly reduced the number of abortion clinics in America from 2,186 in 1991 to 660 today, according to the pro-life organization Operation Rescue.
Abortion-rights groups criticized the new law, claiming it would effectively ban abortion in North Dakota, and they vowed to challenge the measure in court.