Last week, the Legislature passed bills that would ban abortion as early as six weeks, or as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, and because of genetic defects such as Down syndrome. Together, those bills would give North Dakota the strictest abortion laws in the nation.
Abortion-rights activists have said that if Gov. Jack Dalrymple signs any of them into law, they will fight them in court. Dalrymple, a Republican, has not indicated whether he plans to approve or veto the various measures.
The threat of costly litigation may be less of a deterrent in oil-rich North Dakota than in other states. Booming oil production has helped the state avoid the kind of budget cuts seen elsewhere and left it with comfortable surpluses.
Debate over the legislation got heated Friday, with one Republican urging lawmakers to “pick a side” and “stay with it.”
“Either you’re pro-life or against it. Don’t politicize it,” Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, said.
Rep. Gail Mooney, D-Cummings, said she voted against the measures to protect the rights of women and families wanting to make pregnancy decisions with their doctors and their god. She said some of the measures could unintentionally affect end-of-life decisions as well.
Lawmakers Friday also passed a bill outlawing abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the disputed premise that at that point, fetuses feel pain. And lawmakers approved another measure that requires a doctor who performs abortions to be a physician with hospital-admitting privileges.
Many of the North Dakota bills are modeled on legislation from other states.