New York Times Editorial, Columnist Collins Denounce N.D. Antiabortion Laws

April 1, 2013 — The New York Times recently published an editorial and column criticizing North Dakota's enactment of legislation (HB 1456) to ban abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy, as well as other attacks on abortion rights in that state and elsewhere. Summaries of both pieces appear below.

~ Gail Collins, New York Times: North Dakota "has been in a kind of anti-abortion meltdown, piling up bills with what-the-heck abandon," columnist Collins writes, citing the six-week "fetal heartbeat" abortion ban, a separate "fetal pain" bill that would prohibit abortion at 20 weeks, "a resolution giving fetuses the rights of personhood" and a measure banning abortions based on the fetus' sex or genetic defects. Even though North Dakota is known as hostile to reproductive rights, the slew of antiabortion-rights bills "seem[s] out of character" for the "emotionally conservative" state, according to Collins. She argues that in the past, antiabortion-rights groups' most extreme bills failed to advance because lawmakers were focused on economic issues and wary of the potential cost of defending the measures in court. "A shortage of money tends to keep things focused," but the state's recent "oil boom and multibillion-dollar surpluses" have removed that "much-needed sense of direction," Collins writes. She concludes, "North Dakota led astray by lucre? Finally, we may have found a good side to recessions" (Collins, New York Times, 3/29).

~ New York Times: Roe v. Wade and subsequent Supreme Court decisions affirming that states cannot ban abortion before fetal viability have not stopped North Dakota from joining the "growing list of states trying to set that limit earlier, including Arkansas and its unconstitutional ban after 12 weeks," the editorial states. North Dakota "went even further" than Arkansas by passing a "brazenly unconstitutional ban on nearly all abortions once a fetal heartbeat is 'detectable,'" which can occur as early as six weeks, the editorial notes. Although the six-week ban "stands little chance of surviving a court challenge, ... these kinds of actions show the rising influence of a formerly fringe element of the anti-abortion movement that is dissatisfied with its side's considerable progress in incrementally curbing abortions," the editorial continues. It concludes, "The clear message is the need for a stepped-up effort to hold state officials electorally accountable for policies that harm women in states where right-wing Republicans control the machinery of government" (New York Times, 3/29).