Awful North Dakota Bill Would Outlaw Most Abortions

Several firsts this week in Bismark, North Dakota; the state legislature has decided that Richard Mourdock is a better authority than the Constitution, and passed a bill banning abortions as early as five to six weeks into pregnancy, as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

House Bill 1456, the most stringent abortion bill yet to be passed in U.S. beating the recent Arkansas ban on abortions after twelve weeks would make it a felony punishable with a five year prison sentence for a doctor to perform an abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

The bill was introduced by Republican state Representative Bette Grande (pictured above) and passed 26-17 through the Republican-dominated legislature. It has been sent on to Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple for his signature.

The earliest a fetal heartbeat can be detected with a trans-vaginal ultrasound only is five or six weeks, a point so early in pregnancy that many women do not yet know they are pregnant. In fact, over the counter drug store pregnancy tests are typically inaccurate until the week after a missed period. This gives a pregnant woman and her doctor, or the physicians at the clinic in Fargo the only clinic left in the state that still performs abortions a one-week window to take the home pregnancy test and perform the procedure.

With an abdominal ultrasound, the heartbeat can be detected at around twelve weeks. The bill does not specify whether the use of trans-vaginal probe is necessary, but arguably a doctor could be prosecuted for choosing not to use the probe and performing an abortion after the six-week mark.

Launder money to drug cartels and get fined, but provide an abortion to a woman in North Dakota at ten weeks and you’re going to prison.

A second bill House Bill 1305 makes no exceptions for women seeking terminations due to genetic abnormalities, even in the case that they are fatal. It passed 28-15.

The two bills have been called a "frontal assault" on the reproductive rights of women by Nancy Northrup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, and it’s no exaggeration. The commonly accepted point at which abortions are made illegal is after the 20th week of pregnancy, because typically a fetus is viable outside the womb by week 24. This window allows time for genetic tests to be done and for the viability of the fetus to be determined. Indeed, first trimester screenings for genetic illnesses such as Down Syndrome, Tay-Sachs, Edwards Syndrome, and other mutations that could prove fatal doesn't usually occur until weeks 11 to 14; the earliest these tests can be done is week nine.

In 2011 alone there have been around 1,247 abortions performed in North Dakota, 85% of which were performed for single mothers, many of whom already had at least one child. 75% of these procedures would be outlawed under the new bills.

The only exception granted in North Dakota according to bills 1305 and 1456 would be for emergency situations threatening the life of the mother. There is no exception for rape or incest, because obviously if you’re a Republican male, then you believe that is what God intended to happen.  

North Dakota lawmakers are also said to be considering a "personhood" bill declaring that life begins at conception. This would effectively ban all abortions and some types of in-vitro fertilization.

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Nicole Polizzi

Nicole is an adjunct lecturer in Sociology, Philosophy and Composition at ASA in Manhattan. Professionally she is dually obsessed with the expansion/protection of human rights and social justice, and holistic, arts-inclusive education reform. Running, writing and belting Adele in the shower are her catharses.

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