N.D. governor signs toughest abortion laws

March 27, 2013 at 6:46 AM
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BISMARCK, N.D., March 27 (UPI) -- North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed into law bills banning nearly all abortion procedures and, scholars say, setting the state up for legal challenges.

Of the three measures Dalrymple, a Republican, signed into law Tuesday, the most sweeping bars abortion once a fetal heartbeat is "detectable," which could be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy using transvaginal ultrasound procedures, The New York Times reported.

Legal scholars said the law would violate the Supreme Court's finding in Roe vs. Wade that abortions were permitted until the fetus could live outside of the womb, generally around 24 weeks.

"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 vs. Wade," Dalrymple said in a statement Tuesday.

The Supreme Court, he said, "has never considered this precise restriction ... ."

Paul Linton, a constitutional lawyer who once was general counsel for Americans United for Life, told the Times the anti-abortion movement has been frustrated because four decades after Roe vs. Wade was decided, "it's still the law of the land."

The three North Dakota bills would be effective Aug. 1.

Abortion rights supporters attacked Dalrymple's decision as effectively banning abortion in North Dakota and as an attack on women.

"In the past it's been, 'We're going to try and make it more difficult, more hoops, more obstacles for women to have to jump through or jump over,'" said Tammi Kromenaker, director of Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo, the state's lone abortion provider. "But this is specifically: 'Let's ban abortion. Let's do it. Let's challenge Roe vs. Wade. Let's end abortion in North Dakota.'"

The Center for Reproductive Rights in New York condemned the new laws and said it would challenge the fetal heartbeat ban in court.

Dalrymple also signed a law requiring doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a local hospital. The third law prevents abortions for gender preference or genetic defects.

The Arkansas Legislature approved a measure recently that bans abortions at 12 weeks into pregnancy, when a fetal heartbeat can be detected by abdominal ultrasound.

North Dakota's Republican-led Legislature last week approved a so-called personhood resolution to amend the state Constitution to assert that life begins at conception, which would give a fetus the rights of a person and outlaw nearly all abortions. Voters in Mississippi and Colorado have defeated similar measures.

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