Written by Tara Culp-Ressler
Rep. Bette Grande, one of the primary backers of North Dakota’s new unconstitutional abortion ban, is no stranger to anti-choice efforts to coerce women out of their decision to terminate a pregnancy. Four years ago, she spearheaded the state’s forced ultrasound law. Since then, she says young women have told her they decided not to go through with having an abortion after seeing an ultrasound image of the fetus.
Despite the fact that those women are solidly in the minority — several studies have shown that mandatory waiting periods, counseling sessions, and ultrasounds don’t actually change women’s minds about their decision to have an abortion — Grande is now extending that logic to apply to her state’s harsh new abortion restrictions.
Earlier this year, North Dakota enacted the strictest abortion restriction in the nation: a so-called “heartbeat” ban to outlaw all abortion services after a fetal heartbeat can first be detected, which typically occurs around six weeks of pregnancy. The state is already preparing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend the law in court. But Grande is confident that, regardless of the outcome of that legal fight, the fetal heartbeat law will ultimately “give people the opportunity to realize that there is a beating heart.” She believes that will effectively convince women that they don’t want to have an abortion after all:
Grande, a Methodist and Republican state representative from Fargo, believes the intense national publicity surrounding the fetal heartbeat abortion ban has brought new awareness and understanding to the issue.
“It does give people the opportunity to realize that there is a beating heart,” even in a fetus as young as six weeks, Grande said. “People are recognizing that.” [...]
But lawsuits can take years to resolve, and the publicity that will be generated during the dispute can itself be valuable to changing public opinion and ultimately stopping abortion, Grande said.
“I appreciate the fact that it will change hearts and minds,” she said.
In fact, abortion bans do not prevent women from choosing to terminate a pregnancy; rather, they simply eliminate women’s safe and legal options. The Guttmacher Institute has found that the legality of abortion services have absolutely no correlation to abortion rates worldwide. When women don’t have the opportunity and the means to safely terminate a pregnancy, they are forced to resort to dangerous, illegal abortions — and those unsafe procedures lead to an estimated 47,000 preventable deaths around the world.
Although Grande is framing North Dakota’s six-week abortion ban as a compassionate law that will help women realize what’s best for them, women can make up their own minds about their health care. Nearly 90 percent of women who seek abortion care are “highly confident” about their decision to terminate a pregnancy before going to a clinic. Instead of helping women make the right choice for them, the heartbeat ban would actually prevent North Dakota women from being able to access their full range of reproductive health options — particularly because many women have not yet realized they are pregnant at just six weeks — which could lead desperate women to turn to desperate measures.
This post was originally published by ThinkProgress.
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