The clock hasn’t started ticking yet on the three legislative days the governor of North Dakota has to sign the “heartbeat ban” heading to his desk, but the legislature isn’t letting any dust settle on its anti-choice crusade.
With the state poised to enact the toughest abortion restriction in the nation (at least until it is blocked by the courts, an almost certain outcome), it would seem as if the politicians might want to try a little harder to stop unwanted pregnancies in the first place. The best way to do that is through a combination of comprehensive sex education programs, and universal access to reproductive health care, including affordable contraception. Instead, the legislature has amended the 20 week “fetal pain” abortion ban bill to block what would have been over $1 million in sex ed funding to North Dakota State University to help at risk teens avoid pregnancy and STIs.
Surely it is no surprise that the amendment to kill the sex-ed program, which requires that parents “opt in” for their children, was proposed by Sen. Bette Grande (R-Fargo), of heartbeat ban fame.
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According to the Grand Forks Herald, “The grant was frozen after attorneys questioned whether it would violate a state law that forbids government funding to people or groups that encourage abortion.” There’s only one problem with that statement. Not only does Planned Parenthood not provide abortions in the state, it doesn’t even provide birth control. In fact, Planned Parenthood doesn’t even have a clinic in North Dakota. It was this fact that allowed the Attorney General to agree that the school program could receive funding in the first place.
As if that weren’t enough, North Dakota is still continuing to debate an all-out abortion ban by granting legal rights to fertilized eggs, a move that is being staunchly opposed by medical professionals and those who have dealt with infertility issues, as well as reproductive rights advocates. Samantha Meyer, a mother with fertility issues, is speaking out on how the new ban would have stopped her from being able to freeze the number of embryos she needed for treatment, while reproductive specialist Dr. Steffen Christensen told news organizations that, “The concern is this is criminal negligence, if anything should happen to an embryo and how can I employ my embryologists, if they are going to be under the threat of prosecution.”
Others are still focused on how all of the abortion bans would lack exceptions for women or girls who have been raped. Senator Margaret Sitte (R-Bismark), sponsor of the so-called “personhood” bill, has dismissed these concerns by saying she is compassionate…for the embryo. “Rape is a horrible crime. It is absolutely devastating,” Sitte told the Associated Press. “But do we believe in capital punishment for those children?”
The restrictions are so onerous and extreme that even the Republicans in the legislature are backing away from them. Huffington Post reports that one state Representative is going as far as to attend a rally opposing the bills, which she says goes too far. “It’s to say, hey, this isn’t okay. We have stepped over the line,” said state Rep. Kathy Hawken (R-Fargo) in a phone interview with The Huffington Post. “One of the key tenets of the Republican Party is personal responsibility. I’m personally pro-life, but I vote pro-choice, because you can’t make that decision for anyone else. You just can’t.”
Will Governor Dalrymple sign any of these bills sent to him solely to provoke court challenges? The Grand Forks Herald says no—at least, not if he is abiding by his oath of office, which compels him to uphold the Constitution. “As governor of North Dakota, Dalrymple also took such an oath, one affirmed in November by nearly nine out of 10 North Dakota voters. He, too, is bound by his oath’s terms.”
Nine out of ten voters? That’s a whole lot of people to anger if you are considering a run for re-election.