In less than a week, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear pleas from North Dakota and Arkansas to revive two of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.
The justices on Monday declined to hear Stenehjem v. MKB Management Corp., North Dakota’s appeal of an appellate court decision striking down the state’s ban on abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected—which can be as early as six weeks of pregnancy. On Jan. 19, the high court in Beck v. Edwards turned away Arkansas’ attempt to resurrect a law that would have denied abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy.
The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether two of Texas’ restrictions on the operation of abortion clinics are constitutional. Those restrictions require clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities and require clinic physicians to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of their clinics.
That challenge—Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole—will be argued March 2. The case is the first abortion challenge to be heard by the justices since 2007.
North Dakota’s law, which became effective in March 2013, was the earliest abortion ban in the nation. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, affirming a district court ruling, permanently blocked the ban in July.
The Center for Reproductive Rights and Thomas A. Dickson of the Dickson Law Office in Bismarck, North Dakota, challenged the law in June 2013 on behalf of Red River Women’s Clinic—the state’s sole abortion provider.
“Whether in North Dakota, Arkansas or Texas, politicians simply cannot rob women of their constitutional rights,” said Nancy Northup, president and chief executive office of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement Monday. “This utterly cruel and unconstitutional ban would have made North Dakota the first state since Roe v. Wade to effectively ban abortion—with countless women left to pay the price.
Arkansas lawmakers approved “The Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act” in 2013. The Eighth Circuit struck down the law in May.