A federal judge on Wednesday struck down North Dakota’s “fetal heartbeat” law, seen as the most restrictive abortion ban in the country.

The law, House Bill 1456, essentially banned abortions at six weeks. Barring a medical emergency, the law said that an abortion could not be performed if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can happen as early as six weeks — a point at which a woman may not even know she is pregnant.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Daniel L. Hovland writes that “there is no question that North Dakota House Bill 1456 is in direct contradiction of United States Supreme Court case law addressing restraints on abortion. H.B. 1456 is an invalid and unconstitutional law based on the United States Supreme Court precedent in Roe v. Wade from 1973, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey from 1992, and the litany of cases that have followed.”

North Dakota’s law, therefore, “cannot withstand a constitutional challenge.”

In contrast to the Supreme Court’s decision, North Dakota posited that “viability occurs at the point of conception,” yet the state “has presented no reliable medical evidence to justify the passage of this troubling law,” Hovland’s decision states.

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