On Friday, the North Dakota Senate passed two of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, barring the practice if a doctor can detect a heartbeat and regardless of the presence of any genetic abnormality. Once you meet the bills' sponsor, you'll understand how things got so extreme.
The Associated Press describes what the laws would do:
The measure would ban most abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, something that can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The House already approved the measure. … The vote came with almost no debate in the Senate and after the same chamber approved another measure that would make North Dakota the first to ban abortions based on genetic defects such as Down syndrome.
North Dakota's measure doesn't specify how a fetal heartbeat would be detected. Doctors performing an abortion after a heartbeat is detected could face a felony charge punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Women having an abortion would not face charges.
The genetic defects bill also bans sex selection as a rationale for abortion.
Both bills originated in the state House of Representatives, where they passed; both were sponsored by five-term State Representative Bette Grande. The measures comprise one-third of the bills Grande has introduced in the legislature this session, which include:
- Resolution commending Israel for its cordial relationship with the United States and North Dakota
- Divest state funds from companies liable for sanctions under the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act
- School districts have to publish descriptions of course content for every grade
- Schools that get state money are under "absolute and exclusive" control of the state
- The two abortion measures
In previous sessions, Grande has introduced other bills opposing abortion, as well as ones returning tuition to college students if their instructors don't speak English "with good pronunciation," tightening restrictions on prostitution, combatting "corrupt" election practices, barring kids from using tanning salons, celebrating nuclear energy, and, of course, naming February 6 as "Ronald Reagan Day."
A profile of Grande earlier this month identified her as a "a family woman with a broad background and a strong Christian faith," which may not surprise you. Her rationale for the abortion proposals might:
The issues hit close to her, she said, having relatives with children born with a genetic abnormality and seeing an increase in discrimination toward individuals with Down syndrome and other genetic issues.
“It takes you back to Hitler, and we know where that went,” she said. “He started going after those with abnormalities, and I think it’s an absurdity we would go back to that kind of thing.”
The bills that passed on Friday go to Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple for his signature. Dalrymple recently signed a law extending the waiting period before having an abortion, suggesting to many that these bills will also meet with his approval. The Washington Post indicates that his doing so would mark a new stage in the fight over abortion.
The more aggressive wing of the antiabortion movement up until now, has had difficulty gaining traction with it’s “all-or-nothing” approach. A slew of proposed bills to declare life as beginning at conception all failed, most notably in deep red Mississippi.
In 2013, however, they appear to be taking hold.
That may be exactly the point. "Some supporters of the so-called fetal heartbeat measure have said they hope to send a message that North Dakota is anti-abortion," writes the Associated Press. Mission accomplished. And happy belated Ronald Reagan Day.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.