March 21, 2013 — A bipartisan group of North Dakota lawmakers is urging Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) to veto legislation that would enact the nation's most-restrictive abortion measures, the AP/Redwood Falls Gazette reports (MacPherson, AP/Redwood Falls Gazette, 3/20).
Last week, the state Senate voted to approve a bill (HB 1456) that would ban abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy -- the earliest limit in the U.S. -- if a fetal heartbeat is detectable. Separately, senators approved a measure (HB 1305) that would ban abortions sought for genetic abnormalities or the sex of the fetus. North Dakota would become the first state to ban abortions because of evidence of fetal abnormalities, and the fourth state -- behind Arizona, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania -- to ban abortions sought because of the sex of the fetus (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/18).
At a meeting on Monday with Dalrymple and Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley (R), about 10 lawmakers expressed unease about the legislation. "There is concern that we are making laws outlawing a perfectly legal procedure," state Rep. Kathy Hawken (R) said. She also raised concern about the costs of defending the legislation in court.
As of Tuesday, the bills had not been formally presented to the governor, according to a Dalrymple spokesperson. The governor has three legislative days to sign or veto a bill once it is received.
Hawken noted that even if the governor vetoes the bills, the Legislature could override his decision (AP/Redwood Falls Gazette, 3/20).
Amendment Targets Sex Ed Research
In other news, the state House Human Services Committee on Monday approved an amendment that would prohibit the use of public funds to contract with "entities performing, inducing, referring for, or counseling in favor of, abortions," the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reports. The amendment was attached to a bill (SB 2368) that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in medical emergencies.
The amendment seeks to block a three-year, $1.2 million federal grant awarded to North Dakota State University professors to launch a sex education program that would be run by Planned Parenthood. NDSU administrators froze the grant after legal questions arose over whether the arrangement violated a state law, but state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem (R) issued a legal opinion last month clarifying that the statute in question was invalidated by a 1981 court decision.
In a statement, Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota President Sarah Stoesz said the amendment and other legislation this year show that state lawmakers "will seemingly stop at nothing" to prevent the group from working with youth (Johnson, Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, 3/18).
Amendment Could Thwart Valuable Research, Editorial Argues
Although Planned Parenthood is lawmakers' "target of choice" in the amendment, the provision's broad language "could undermine or scuttle other areas of valuable scientific and social research" if lawmakers disapprove of certain groups, "no matter how tangential such involvement might be," a Forum of Fargo-Moorhead editorial states.
"The amendment is legislation at its worst" and should be "stripped from the host bill and sent to the place where vacuous ideas go to die," the editorial concludes (Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, 3/20).