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N.D. gets extension for petitioning U.S. Supreme Court to hear fetal heartbeat abortion ban appeal

BISMARCK -- North Dakota has been given more time to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a state law that would ban abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is at around six weeks of pregnancy.

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Craig Booth, left, of Thief River Falls protests abortions Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015, with counter protestor Nikolaus Severson of Fargo in front of the Red River Women’s Clinic in downtown Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

BISMARCK -- North Dakota has been given more time to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a state law that would ban abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is at around six weeks of pregnancy.

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland declared the law unconstitutional and permanently blocked it in April 2014. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed his ruling in July.

Tuesday was the original deadline for the state to petition the Supreme Court to review the case, but the high court granted the state an extension it requested, said Liz Brocker, spokeswoman for Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. The length of the extension wasn't immediately clear.

State lawmakers approved the law in March 2013. The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the law on behalf of the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo, the state's lone abortion provider.

Last week, Stenehjem said asking the nation's highest court to review the case is "a longshot," but cited his duty to defend the laws of the state.

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The Supreme Court receives about 10,000 petitions each year but grants and hears oral arguments in only about 75 to 80 cases, according to its website.

The last case the U.S. Supreme Court heard involving a lawsuit against the state of North Dakota was Quill Corp. v. Heitkamp in 1992. Justices reversed a North Dakota Supreme Court decision that had required Quill, an out-of-state mail-order office supply retailer, to collect sales tax on purchases made by its North Dakota customers.

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