North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed three bills yesterday that would severely restrict abortions in the state. Together, HB 1305, HB 1456 and SB 2305 would ban abortions performed solely for the purpose of gender selection and genetic abnormalities, ban abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, and require admitting staff privileges at a nearby hospital for any physician performing abortions in the state.
In signing the legislation, Dalrymple said he is anticipating legal challenges and that the Legislative Assembly should appropriate money for a litigation fund available to the Attorney General. "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," he said. "Because the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed state restrictions on the performing of abortions and because the Supreme Court has never considered this precise restriction in HB 1456, the constitutionality of this measure is an open question." Without a challenge, the bills will take effect Aug. 1.
Last week, the state also passed legislation that will put a measure on the state ballot next year to amend the State Constitution to define life as beginning at conception. Earlier this month, Arkansas passed a law banning most abortions after 12 weeks if a heartbeat is detected by an abdominal ultrasound test, overturning Gov. Mike Beebe's veto. Last year, Mississippi enacted legislation requiring providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and to be certified in obstetrics and gynecology or eligible for certification. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a legal challenge in federal court; providers at the state's sole abortion clinic have been unable to receive the necessary privileges.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 19 states enacted 43 provisions in 2012 limiting access to abortions — the second-highest number passed in one year, following 92 laws in 2011.