North Dakota could become first state to ban abortion

North Dakota legislators are doing everything in their power to ban abortion in that state. This week they passed two measures severely restricting a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion as guaranteed by Roe v. Wade.

The State Senate passed House Bill 1456, which now awaits the signature of Governor Jack Dalrymple in order to become law. This legislation bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be heard, which can be as early as six weeks, or long before many women even know they are pregnant. Doctors performing abortions after that time will be subject to hefty fines and imprisonment. The Republican controlled Senate voted to pass this bill without any discussion (Huffington Post).

The second measure to pass the State Senate was House Bill 1305, which bans abortions performed for gender selection or based upon a genetic defect. While other states, including Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Arizona, have laws banning abortion performed for gender selection, North Dakota is the first state to pass legislation banning abortions in the case of genetic defects (Huffington Post).

While the State House did not pass legislation to directly affirm that life begins at conception, lawmakers did pass a resolution that will allow voters to decide whether or not to amend the State Constitution to that effect. The personhood amendment will now become a ballot initiative, and as a result, North Dakota could become the first state to effectively ban all abortions, which is the hope of Republican Senator Margaret Sitte, who sponsored the resolution: “I’m hoping that it will be a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade” (NY Times).

As it stands right now, North Dakota only has one clinic in the entire state that performs abortions, the Red River Women’s Clinic. If the proposed legislation is signed by the governor, it is likely that clinic will not survive. In referencing the passage of the fetal heartbeat measure, Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights, stated: “The passage of this law is nothing short of a frontal assault on the U.S. Constitution, 40 years of Supreme Court precedent, and the health and fundamental rights of women. We strongly urge Governor Dalrymple to protect the rights and health of the women of North Dakota by vetoing this noxious and dangerous bill” (Huffington Post).

Nationally, legislation limiting abortion continues to be introduced and passed at a staggering rate. In 2012, 24 states enacted 41 anti-choice measures, down from the record breaking 71 anti-choice measures passed in 2011. Since 1995, states have enacted a total of 754 anti-choice measures. In contrast, only eight pro-choice measures were passed in 2012 (NARAL). Yet a recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 63 percent of Americans believe that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned, compared to 29 percent who believe it should be. These results remain consistent with polls taken in 2003 and 1992 (Pew Research Center). There appears to be a significant disconnect between what the majority of Americans support and what our legislators are proposing on our behalf. A government elected by the people and for the people should pay more attention to the people, and not just on this issue, but every issue that impacts the citizens of this country.

Diane DeBella

As a writer, teacher, and speaker Diane has spent over twenty years examining women’s issues. She is the author of the collective memoir *I Am Subject: Sharing Our Truths to Reclaim Our Selves*, and editor of the anthology *I Am Subject Stories: Women Awakening*. As a long-time faculty member at the University of Colorado, she received the CU Women Who Make a Difference Award and the CU-LEAD Alliance Faculty Appreciation Award. Through her organization I Am Subject, Diane helps us understand how we—as women—are impacted by the society in which we live. By claiming ourselves as subjects of our own lives, we become empowered and also provide strong role models for other women and girls. In healing ourselves we help others—a beautiful way for women to create nurturing, supportive communities.

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