North Dakota’s Draconian New Laws

Elisabeth Garber-Paul

North Dakota's House Bill 1371 requires doctors to show an ultrasound to a pregnant woman before she is allowed to go through with the procedure. Infantilizing towards the woman? Sure. Assuming that a woman doesn’t have long conversations and ambivalent thoughts about making this hard decision? This is nothing new.

Yesterday, North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven signed two anti-abortion bills into law. The first, House Bill 1371, requires doctors to show an ultrasound to a pregnant woman before she is allowed to go through with the procedure. Infantilizing towards the woman? Sure. Assuming that a woman doesn’t have long conversations and ambivalent thoughts about making this hard decision? This is nothing new.

However, according to LifeNews.com, there’s an even more troubling bill, HB 1445, that’s made its way through. “The other measure requires the lone abortion center in the state to tell women considering an abortion that it will destroy the life of an unborn child, a unique human being.”

This goes above and beyond infantilization, straight into unquestionably offensive. Now, doctors at the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, the only clinic this will apply to, have to tell them that the procedure is murder.

I’m sorry, Republicans, but where are you keeping your love for small government these days? Or does legislating opinions fit right in with free markets and the right to bear arms?

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Better than arguing ideology, Kelli Conlin, the President of the National Institute for Reproductive Health and NARAL Pro-Choice New York, decided to stick to the numbers—and reported that not only to these preventative measures not cut down on abortion rates, but they actually increase third-trimester abortions because there are so many more hoops for women to jump through. In an article on Huffington Post yesterday, Conlin explained the recent study.

A Guttmacher Institute paper released today ("The Impact of State Mandatory Counseling and Waiting Period Laws on Abortion: A Literature Review") once and for all validates the pro-choice community’s opposition to obstacles like waiting periods and mandatory counseling sessions, finding that they do not reduce abortion rates, but rather cause unnecessary burdens. With the exception of one state that saw a decrease in abortions overall—though, critically, along with a concurrent increase in second-trimester abortions—not a single restriction showed any evidence of decreasing abortions.

Perhaps we should try different approaches to reduce abortion rates—other than simple scare tactics, especially if it leads women to entering into even riskier procedures. Seems like an ideal time for preventative measures. Subsidizing birth control for the poor, could work. Simply updating the sexual education methods would probably help prevent more abortions than guilt-tripping a scared woman trying to make the right choice for her and her future.

News Law and Policy

Wisconsin Can’t Enforce GOP’s Voter ID Law in November

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Republican lawmakers in other states, like Ohio, have turned up almost nothing during lengthy investigations into claims of voter fraud.

A federal judge in Wisconsin on Tuesday ruled that voters unable to comply with the state’s photo ID requirement be allowed to vote in November, striking a blow to conservative efforts to drive down Democratic voter turnout in the state.

Tuesday’s decision, issued by Judge Lynn Adelman, did not strike the law, but instead carved out an exception, ruling that voters who are unable to obtain an ID be permitted to sign an affidavit testifying to that inability and receive a ballot to vote. “Any voter who completes and submits an affidavit shall receive a regular ballot, even if that voter does not show acceptable photo identification,” according to Adelman’s decision. “No person may challenge the sufficiency of the reason given by the voter for failing to obtain ID.”

Conservatives in Wisconsin, including former Republican Party presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker, proposed the measure, arguing it was necessary to prevent voter fraud.

Republican lawmakers in other states, like Ohio, have turned up almost nothing during lengthy investigations into claims of voter fraud.

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“Although most voters in Wisconsin either possess qualifying ID or can easily obtain one, a safety net is needed for those voters who can’t obtain qualifying ID with reasonable effort,” Adelman wrote. “The … affidavit option is a sensible approach that will both prevent the disenfranchisement of some voters during the pendency of this litigation and preserve Wisconsin’s interests in protecting the integrity of its elections.”

Adelman declined to apply the photo ID exception to the state’s August primary, ruling state officials would not have enough time to prepare for it.

The fight over Wisconsin’s voter ID law goes back to 2011, when attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union and National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty sued, arguing the law violated both the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Adelman initially blocked the law, but the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision and sent the case back to Adelman for another look. That left the requirement in place for Wisconsin’s presidential primary in April.

Tuesday’s ruling means those who were unable to comply with the photo ID requirement can still cast a ballot in the November 8 presidential election.

News Abortion

Iowa GOP Legislator: Ending Legal Abortion ‘Impossible’ Without ‘Personhood’ Laws

Teddy Wilson

GOP-backed "personhood" laws have been an unmitigated failure. Voters in state after state have rejected by wide margins personhood ballot initiatives, and personhood bills have failed to gain traction in many legislatures.

An Iowa Republican plans to introduce a measure defining life as beginning at conception in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down an anti-choice Texas law, which has limited states’ ability to restrict abortion care access.

State Sen. Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) told IowaWatch that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt proves that the anti-choice movement’s attack on abortion rights is not working.

“The Supreme Court decision reinforced that incrementally ending abortion is impossible,” Schultz said. “You either have it or you don’t.”

So-called personhood laws seek to classify fertilized eggs, zygotes, embryos, and fetuses as people, and to grant them full legal protection under the U.S. Constitution.

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GOP-backed “personhood” laws have been an unmitigated failure. Voters in state after state have rejected by wide margins personhood ballot initiatives, and personhood bills have failed to gain traction in many legislatures.

Personhood bills were introduced this year by Republican lawmakers in Alabama, Colorado, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, and Rhode Island.

Rachel Lopez, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, told IowaWatch that personhood measures are routinely introduced in Iowa but have failed to gain traction in the GOP-dominated legislature.

“Although we have not yet seen the details of this impending effort, we are confident that it also will fail to advance,” Lopez said. “Personhood bills are a waste of both time and taxpayer dollars, as they have failed time and again in Iowa and other states.”

Iowa lawmakers this year introduced SJR 2001, a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the state constitution specifying that the document does not secure or protect a fundamental right to abortion care.

SJR 2001 was referred to the senate rules and administration committee, but never received a hearing or a vote.

Schultz, who was elected to the state senate in 2014 after serving in the house, has sponsored or co-sponsored several anti-choice bills while in the state legislature, including personhood measures.

SF 478, sponsored by Schultz during the 2015 legislative session, would have defined “person” when referring to the victim of a murder, to mean “an individual human being, without regard to age of development, from the moment of conception, when a zygote is formed, until natural death.”

Mark Kende, director of Drake University’s Constitutional Law Center, told IowaWatch that Schultz’s proposal would not survive in the courts.

“He can try to pass that legislation but it certainly wouldn’t trump the federal Constitution,” Kende said. “Even if that language got into the state constitution it can’t defy three Supreme Court decisions in the last 40 years.”

Gov. Terry Branstad (R) told IowaWatch that he could not support Schultz’s proposal.

“I’m pro-life and I want to do what I can to encourage things that can protect the lives of unborn children,” Branstad said. “Yet I also recognize that we have to live with the restrictions that have been placed on the states by the courts.”

Branstad signed many of the state’s laws restricting abortion access that came up during the latter part of his first term as governor.