While Republicans furiously approve new restrictions on reproductive rights at the state level, they keep running into one persistent problem: the courts.
A federal judge has blocked enforcement of North Dakota's new abortion law -- the nation's most restrictive.The law, which was set to take effect next week, would ban abortions beginning at six weeks, when the fetal heartbeat can be detected.U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland concluded the North Dakota law contradicts U.S. Supreme Court cases addressing abortion restraints and violates a 40-year precedent established in Roe v. Wade.
North Dakota only has one clinic remaining where women can terminate pregnancies -- this in a state spanning over 70,000 square miles -- and under the law approved in March, 90% of those abortions would no longer be legal.
"The State of North Dakota has presented no evidence to justify the passage of this troubling law," Hovland said in his order. "The State has extended an invitation to an expensive court battle over a law restricting abortions that is a blatant violation of the constitutional guarantees afforded to all women."
The ruling is not surprising -- North Dakota Republicans willfully ignored existing U.S. law when they approved these sweeping restrictions, applying them to some women who may not even realize they're pregnant -- but it's nevertheless reassuring to reproductive-rights advocates.
It's also the second such ruling this month.
As we discussed just two weeks ago, Gov. Scott Walker (R) and Wisconsin's Republican-led legislature approved their own restrictions, including state-mandated, medically-unnecessary ultrasounds and the closure of half the state's clinics where abortion services are provided. A federal court blocked this measure, too.
If we look back a little further, as the NBC News report noted, Idaho's 20-week ban was also blocked by a federal court.
Why are Republicans in the U.S. Senate so eager to derail President Obama's judicial nominees and prevent the courts from moving to the left? This offers a pretty timely reminder.