North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple has signed into law the latest in a series of abortion restrictions passed by the state's legislature. On Tuesday,the Republican governor signed the"fetal pain" bill, outlawing abortion after 20 weeks, the point at which proponents of the bill say a human fetus feels pain. Opponents argue that premise is unproven.
The bill passed the House last Friday by a 60-32 vote, after winning a 30-17 approval in the Senate in February. It is the fourth in a series of measures passed in Bismarck this session in an ongoing challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling of 1973, proclaiming abortion as a constitutional right and forbidding states from interfering with a woman's decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability, which the Court pegged at 24 weeks of gestation. Abortions may be performed at any time beyond that point, the Court held, when a woman's physical or psychological health or safety is endangered by the pregnancy.
The North Dakota legislators and governor have also passed and signed into law a bill that bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as the sixth week of pregnancy.They have also enacted a law banning abortions based on the discovery of fetal defects, such as Down syndrome, and a requirement that anyone performing abortions must be a licensed physician with hospital-admitting privileges.The measures take effect August 1. Abortion-rights advocates have called the laws unconstitutional and have expressed confidence they will win the legal battles they plan to wage against them.
Opponents claim that in addition to making a legal challenge to the Roe ruling, Dalrymple and his allies in the legislature are hoping the new restrictions will impede or possibly force the closing of the state's only abortion facility, the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo. The Center for Reproductive Rights has said it is committed to challenging the fetal heartbeat bill on behalf of the clinic, the Associated Press reported. The New York-based group is representing the clinic for free in a trial that started Tuesday over a 2011 law banning the use of a medication that induces abortion. A judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of that law.
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