North Dakota Abortion Ban: Govenor Dalrymple Should Veto Frivolous, Costly Bills

This week North Dakota’s legislature took the radical step of passing a "heartbeat ban" which would effectively ban abortion 5 to 7 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period when a fetal heartbeat can usually be detected with a transvaginal ultrasound probe. On the very same day this law was passed, the North Dakota legislature also passed a bill that would penalize doctors for performing abortions when the female patients seeks the procedure on the basis of the fetus’ sex or genetic defects.

Here’s the thing: a woman and her doctor cannot detect the sex of a fetus until as early as 7 weeks. The earliest genetic test can be done at 8 weeks, though more common tests like an amniocentesis are not performed until at least 11 weeks of pregnancy.
So why did North Dakota’s legislators feel the need to waste their time banning certain abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy on the same day they banned all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy?

The one exception to the fetal heartbeat ban passed by North Dakota is when protection of the life of the mother requires an abortion or prematurely induced labor. Even if a woman puts her own life in danger to terminate her pregnancy on the basis of her fetus's sex or genetic defect, surely North Dakota’s legislators wouldn't require a woman and her fetus to die in that situation (Right?!?!).

Because of these facts the sex and genetic anomaly selection ban is unnecessary unless the fetal heartbeat ban is eliminated.

It therefore seems obvious that North Dakota’s legislators know that passing these laws are only symbolic acts.Even if North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple does sign these bills into law, they will immediately find their way into court where it is likely that they will be prevented from ever going into effect (just look at the the three 20 week bans that have been challenged in ArizonaGeorgia, and Idaho).

The process of defending these laws in court is extremely expensive. Just look at North Dakota’s neighbor, South Dakota: Governor Dennis Daugaard had to ask his state legislature for one million dollars in supplemental funding to defend his state’s anti-choice laws in court.

Most North Dakotans would find wasting even just a part of the state's 2 billion dollar surplus on defending these ill-fated laws to be a ludicrous proposition. North Dakota needs to be investing in its infrastructure as folks flock to the state to find jobs in the booming energy sector; the state shouldn't be throwing away its money on legal fees. If Governor Dalrymple wants to show his commitment to managing his state with fiscal responsibility, he will veto these frivolous, unconstitutional, and costly laws.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Alison Tanner

Alison is a recent graduate of the University of California - Davis, where she studied political science and women's studies and served the student body as an ASUCD Senator. She is currently a legal assistant for the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project. Views expressed here are her own.

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