Among the restrictions signed into law is the earliest and most extreme abortion ban in the country—making virtually all abortions in the state illegal after the point at which a fetal heart tone can be detected, about six weeks of pregnancy. The governor also approved SB 2305—a measure designed to shut down North Dakota’s only abortion clinic by imposing medically unwarranted requirements that any physician performing abortions obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. A nearly identical measure passed and signed into law in Mississippi last year is currently being challenged in federal court by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the last abortion provider in that state.
Last but not least, Dalrymple signed HB 1305 into law, an unconstitutional bill banning abortions for reasons of sex-selection or genetic fetal anomaly—the first of its kind in the nation. The Center for Reproductive Rights is currently reviewing the impact of this law. And for good measure, last week the state legislature passed SCR 4009, which will place a so-called “personhood” measure on the state ballot in 2014 that, if approved, could ban abortion, threaten access to some forms of birth control, and interfere with women and families trying to have children using fertility treatments like IVF.
Seriously, the state’s a mess right now.
The impact of these bans can’t be overstated — North Dakota conservatives have, in effect, created an abortion-free zone in the Great Plains. Currently about 30 percent of people seeking abortions from the state’s lone clinic come from neighboring Minnesota, while its neighbor to the south, South Dakota, has a 72-hr waiting period, which makes traveling to the state for an abortion extremely burdensome. And let’s not forget the fact that large portions of both Dakotas include vast expanses of Native American reservations.
What that all amounts to is a concerted effort to restrict reproductive health care to women who are poor, rural and of-color. And in case there was any doubt about just how specific these intentions are, let’s also not forget that North Dakota is currently awash in oil money, meaning the state has the rare budget surpluses to fund an expensive and lengthy legal battle.
Thankfully at least some conservatives are starting to take notice and take a stand.
On Monday, North Dakota Republican State Representative Kathy Hawken led a bipartisan group of legislators, physicians and North Dakota women and families in a protest of the extreme package of abortion bills. State Representative Kathy Hawken (R-Fargo) said in a statement:
Like many of my Republican colleagues, I personally am pro-life. But we have gone over the line. North Dakota hasn’t even passed a primary seatbelt law, but so far this year we have taken up six different bills to end safe and legal abortion in our state. I call on my colleagues in North Dakota and in statehouses around the country to re-attune their focus. We need to make sure every American woman has access to the preventive health care she needs, including birth control, so she can avoid an unintended pregnancy and stay healthy. This is a policy priority that unites, rather than divides, Americans. And this is the policy priority that aligns with my Grand Old Party.
Indeed. If only the men in charge would listen.
Photo from mikeporesky via flickr.