North Dakota Governor Signs Law Barring Abortion After Six Weeks
One of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country can now be found in North Dakota:
FARGO, N.D. — Gov. Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota approved the nation’s toughest abortion restrictions on Tuesday, signing into law a measure that would ban most abortions and inviting a legal showdown over just how much states can limit access to the procedure.
Mr. Dalrymple, a Republican, signed into law three bills passed by the Republican-controlled State Legislature. The most far-reaching law forbids abortion once a fetal heartbeat is “detectable,” which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Fetal heartbeats are detectable at that stage of pregnancy using a transvaginal ultrasound.
Most legal scholars have said the law would violate the Supreme Court’s finding in Roe v. Wade that abortions were permitted until the fetus was viable outside the womb, generally around 24 weeks into pregnancy. Even some leaders of the anti-abortion movement nationally have predicted that laws banning abortion so early in pregnancy are virtually certain to be declared unconstitutional by federal courts.
“Although the likelihood of this measure surviving a court challenge remains in question, this bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade,” Mr. Dalrymple said in a statement.
The Supreme Court, he added, “has never considered this precise restriction” in the heartbeat bill
“I think there’s a lot of frustration in the pro-life movement,” said Paul B. Linton, a constitutional lawyer in Illinois who was formerly general counsel of Americans United for Life. “Forty years after Roe v. Wade was decided, it’s still the law of the land.”
But the North Dakota fetal heartbeat law and others like it, he said “have no chance in the courts.”
Abortion-rights advocates quickly condemned the governor’s decision as effectively banning abortion in the state and framing the laws as unconstitutional and an attack on women. Without judicial intervention, the three bills are scheduled to take effect Aug. 1.
“They have no idea what kind of a sleeping giant they have awoken,” said Tammi Kromenaker, the director of the state’s only abortion provider, the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo.
“I think that people are going to be much more aware of who we put in office and demand much more from our legislators,” Ms. Kromenake added.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, in New York, immediately condemned the new laws and said it would file a challenge to the fetal heartbeat ban.
Mr. Dalrymple also affirmed measures to require doctors performing abortions to get admitting privileges at a local hospital, which could force the closure of the state’s only clinic that performs the procedure, and to outlaw abortions for gender or genetic abnormalities. A similar law adopted by Mississippi last year is under challenge in federal court.
The signings come on top of a resolution already approved by the North Dakota Legislature last week to amend the State Constitution to assert that life begins at conception, a move that would give the fetus the rights of a person and outlaw virtually all abortions. The so-called personhood measure, asserting that “the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and defended,” will go on the ballot next year. Such measures have previously been voted down in Mississippi and Colorado and, critics say, would raise a host of serious constitutional issues.
I don’t see this law withstanding court scrutiny. And, indeed, I think we’ll see an injunction issued shortly.