April 17, 2013 — On the heels of signing two bills last month that ban most abortions, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) on Tuesday signed into law a measure (SB 2368) that prohibits the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the AP/USA Today reports. At least 10 states have enacted similar laws, which are based on the disputed theory that fetuses can feel pain at that time in pregnancy.
The North Dakota measures are meant to challenge the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, which said the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from banning abortions before fetal viability. The new laws, which take effect Aug. 1, would make North Dakota's abortion policies the most restrictive in the U.S. and potentially close the state's only abortion clinic (MacPherson, AP/USA Today, 4/16).
One of the new measures (HB 1456) prohibits abortion once a fetal heartbeat is "detectable," which can occur as early as six weeks if a transvaginal ultrasound is used. Another new law (HB 1305) prohibits abortions sought because of the sex of the fetus or genetic defects, such as Down syndrome. Dalrymple also recently signed a bill (SB 2305) that requires physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/11).
Abortion-rights supporters have said they plan to challenge the six-week ban in court (AP/USA Today, 4/16).