News Abortion

Will the North Dakota Legislature Pass a Heartbeat Ban This Week?

Robin Marty

Arkansas recently approved the earliest abortion ban in the nation, but it may not hold that distinction for long.

Last week the Arkansas legislature overrode Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of a blatantly unconstitutional ban on abortion at 12 weeks if a fetal heartbeat can be detected via abdominal ultrasound. The passage of the bill sets Arkansas up to have the earliest abortion ban in the nation, assuming the law ever goes into effect. Its passage also breaks the trend of proposed heartbeat bans dying before they can make it to a governor’s desk to become law.

Now that Arkansas has thrown constitutionality out the window by passing a pre-viability abortion ban, will other states follow suit? Or will state legislators think twice, knowing that Arkansas had to remove from its bill a forced trans-vaginal ultrasound requirement that could ban abortions as early as a week or two past a missed period? (The version that passed included an abdominal ultrasound requirement that allows terminations for an additional six weeks.)

We may find out as early as this week. On Wednesday, the North Dakota House will take up a piece of targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) legislation that would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The bill is meant to close the Red River Women’s Clinic, the state’s sole abortion provider.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the state Senate will take up multiple House-approved abortion bills. The bill that’s garnering the most attention is an embryonic heartbeat ban, which in light of recent events in Arkansas may be all the more likely to pass.

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The North Dakota heartbeat ban was proposed by staunchly anti-choice state Rep. Bette Grande (R-Fargo), who has been the voice behind numerous abortion-restricting bills during her time in the state legislature, including medication abortion restrictions, ultrasound bills, and defining abortion as “severing a whole and separate human being.” She also introduced the fetal anomalies ban, comparing the abortion of fetuses with genetic issues to World War II Germany. “It takes you back to Hitler, and we know where that went. He started going after those with abnormalities and I think it’s an absurdity we would go back to that kind of thing,” she told the Forum News Service. Rep. Grande was endorsed by the Susan B. Anthony List in 2012 during her failed congressional bid.

Will North Dakota follow in Arkansas’ footsteps now that the state has opened the door to passing a first trimester abortion ban? Or will the state instead take a more incremental, backdoor approach by cutting off access to the state’s only abortion provider? Now that there is already one first trimester challenge to Roe v. Wade heading to the courts, anti-choice activists may want to hold off on a second, especially since the challenge is much more likely to reaffirm Roe that to overturn it.

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