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Advocates Want Antiabortion-Rights 'Gag' Provision Dropped From N.D. Human Trafficking Bill

March 4, 2015 — Women's health advocates in North Dakota are calling for the removal of an amendment that would bar state funds from being used to "refer for or counsel" human trafficking survivors "in favor of abortion," the Grand Forks Herald reports.

The underlying bill (SB 2107), which aims to curb human trafficking, received unanimous approval in the state Senate and now heads to the state House Judiciary Committee for consideration. State Sen. David Hogue (R) proposed the so-called "gag" provision on abortion at the request of the North Dakota Catholic Conference.

Debate

Opponents of the amendment have argued that human trafficking survivors who become pregnant should have access to abortion. "Victims of sexual trafficking are victims of rape," said Karla Rose Hanson of the North Dakota Women's Network, citing a news report that women and girls forced into prostitution can be subjected to hundreds of sexual acts per year.

Amy Jacobson, Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota's public affairs manager, expressed concern that the amendment could bar "[a]nybody who gets state dollars ... from telling" pregnant women that abortion is an option.

Supporters of the amendment have said it is consistent with other North Dakota statutes that prohibit state funds from being used for abortion services or counseling. State Sen. Judy Lee (R) added that the language is not likely to be dropped in the state House, but "[t]hat doesn't mean [opponents] shouldn't bring it up" (Springer, Grand Forks Herald, 3/2).