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New N.D. laws prohibit abortion for genetic defects, after heartbeat

Published: Sat, March 16, 2013 @ 6:18 a.m.


North Dakota on Friday moved closer to adopting what would be the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, with lawmakers sending the Republican governor measures that could set the state up for a costly legal battle over the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized the procedure.

The North Dakota Senate overwhelmingly approved two anti-abortion bills Friday, one banning abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy and another prohibiting women from having the procedure because a fetus has a genetic defect, such as Down syndrome. North Dakota would be the first state in the U.S. to adopt such laws.

Supporters said their goal is to challenge the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until a fetus is considered viable, usually at 22 to 24 weeks, though anti-abortion activists elsewhere have expressed concern about the strategy.

"It's a good day for babies," said Rep. Bette Grande, a Republican from Fargo who introduced both bills. The state's only abortion clinic is in Fargo, and abortion-rights advocates say the measures are meant to shut it down.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple hasn't said anything to indicate he would veto the measures, and the bills have enough support in each chamber for the Legislature to override him.

Debate Friday was brief, with the Senate taking about an hour to pass both measures. No one spoke against the so-called fetal heartbeat bill, which the Senate took up immediately after passing the genetic abnormalities bill. The votes were largely on party lines, with Republicans supporting the measures and Democrats opposing them.

Opponents, who have promised legal challenges to both measures if they become law, urged Dalrymple to veto the bills. North Dakota is one of several states with Republican-controlled Legislatures and GOP governors that is looking at abortion restrictions. But the state is better positioned than most for a long court fight: It has budget surplus nearing $2 billion thanks to new-found oil wealth.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the measures "extreme," saying they would make North Dakota "the first state in the nation to ban most abortions."

"In America, no woman, no matter where she lives, should be denied the ability to make this deeply personal decision," ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said in a statement.

Arkansas passed a 12-week ban earlier this month that prohibits most abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected using an abdominal ultrasound. That ban is scheduled to take effect 90 days after the Arkansas Legislature adjourns.

A fetal heartbeat can generally be detected earlier in a pregnancy using a vaginal ultrasound, but Arkansas lawmakers balked at requiring women seeking abortions to have the more invasive imaging technique.

North Dakota's measure doesn't specify how a fetal heartbeat would be detected. Doctors performing an abortion after a heartbeat is detected could face a felony charge punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Women having an abortion would not face charges.

While some abortion opponents welcomed Arkansas' new law as a bold challenge to Roe v. Wade, others favor more incremental strategies, fearing such bans could lead to emphatic rejections in court.

A similar fetal heartbeat bill was debated by Ohio lawmakers last year before being blocked by the Senate president. The measure, which could be revived this year, fractured Ohio's anti-abortion movement in a debate over its tactical effectiveness.

Grande told lawmakers that fears about a legal challenge shouldn't prevent them from approving the North Dakota measure.

"Whether this is challenged in court is entirely up to the abortion industry," Grande told lawmakers this week. "Given the lucrative nature of abortion, it is likely that any statute that reduces the number of customers will be challenged by the industry."

During the Senate debate, one senator who had spoken out against the genetic abnormalities bill left the chamber in protest. The move forced the Senate to briefly halt debate, because the chambers rules require senators to be formally excused. The Senate was able to move forward with proceedings on the bill by passing a motion to excuse the senator.

"It was absolutely a silent protest," Sen. Connie Triplett told The Associated Press after the vote. "North Dakota will have a harder time recruiting and retaining doctors because doctors will not want to be arrested for advising women on abortion issues."

Sen. Margaret Sitte, a Republican from Bismarck, said the genetic abnormality bill is meant to ban the destruction of life based on "an arbitrary society standard of being good enough." Some test results pointing to abnormalities are incorrect, she said, and doctors can perform surgeries even before a baby is born to correct some genetic conditions.

Sitte's voice cracked as she described developmentally challenged children she knows. "Their hugs are tighter, their laughter louder and their empathy more sincere" than so-called "normal people," she said.

The genetic abnormalities bill also bans abortion based on gender selection. Pennsylvania, Arizona and Oklahoma already have such laws, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion restrictions across the U.S.

The Senate approved the genetic abnormalities bill 27-15; the House vote was 64-27. The Senate approved the fetal heartbeat bill 26-17; the House vote was 63-28.


1uselesseater(229 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Here's the ACLU putting it's head in the wrong orifice again.

"The American Civil Liberties Union called the measures "extreme," saying they would make North Dakota "the first state in the nation to ban most abortions."

How can you support civil liberties and extend those to include murder of children?

The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life.

Irony? Sure is.

Nothing more oppressive than murder. Is the abortion recipient just aborting to protect their "way of life"?

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2Ytownnative(1121 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

So if you are required to have a baby with genetic defects that cannot see, speak, or move is the state going to use that 2billion surplus to pay medical bills?

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3DSquared(1727 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Why not? They pay for all of the perfectly healthy deadbeats who refuse to leave their Gub'mint housing to support themselves!

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4Ytownnative(1121 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

so one born without horrific defects that will not survive should be brought into the world to know what extreme physical pain is. AND to have his parents take on possibly millions in debt for a child that cannot survive? That is the right thing to do ? I think all those that support this should have an additional tax levied to pay all the healthcare of these children.

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5uselesseater(229 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Geez Ytownnative, aren't we all covered under Oblamo care these days? Isn't every problem and sad luck passed on to the other more fortunate souls?

Isn't that by definition of what insurance is?

A child that cannot survive is a different story than say a genetic defect. We have people aborting children for any trivial reason like wrong gender. Or the most common reason, it will provide a hardship financially for the mother.

I think we should fund medical care of born children with a hefty fine/tax on abortions. An abortion shouldn't cost less than say $5k. Sure, you can finance it like school loans. Let the feds issue a finance program for it too.

Amazes me that we constantly hear about MONEY when it comes to aborting children. Hear it from the idiot mothers who refuse to use birth control devices and methods. Hear it from the abortion loving women who say a child will impact ability to earn income. Hear it from the scared parents facing prospect of debt due to medical.

Newsflash folks, committed people in relationships and stable lives face all sorts of daunting things in their lives. The prospect of debt due to medical shouldn't be anything to scare you into being a murderer.

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