By Elissa Berger, Advocacy and Policy Counsel, ACLU
What passed the legislature in North Dakota?
Two bills are on their way to the Governor's desk: HB 1456 would ban most abortions. The ban on abortion starts very early in pregnancy, before a woman may know the health of her pregnancy and before she may even know she is pregnant at all.
HB 1305 would force health care providers to police their patients' reasons for having an abortion and would ban some abortions because of those reasons, including making it illegal for a woman to have an abortion because of a serious medical complication with her baby. Indeed, this bill would even ban abortions in circumstances when the complication is fatal.
The North Dakota legislature has several other bills queued up and ready to pass that eliminate access to abortion in the state. These include regulations designed to shut down the only abortion clinic in the state and a measure that would ban abortion and in-vitro activities.
Is this a trend?
Yes. For years, some politicians have been passing laws to undermine the ability of women to access comprehensive reproductive health care. Recently, we've seen increased attacks on abortion and birth control.
These bills in North Dakota, which passed quickly after laws prohibiting abortion care in Arkansas were enacted, show how some politicians are giving up on a strategy of chipping away at reproductive rights. Instead they are jumping to their end game: banning abortion. Bills pending in other states that withhold health care from women -- by shutting down women's health centers, undermining health insurance coverage for contraception, or by allowing hospitals to turn away women in need of abortion care, and so on – are different in kind but similar in intent. Blocking access to comprehensive reproductive health care -- whether that care is abortion, contraception, or IVF is a troubling trend – one that's growing and becoming more severe.
Won't these bills be blocked in court?
The bills moving in North Dakota are unconstitutional and, should North Dakota ban abortions, the state can expect a costly legal fight. We are ready to do whatever we can to ensure women in North Dakota, and around the country, get the health care they need. But it is much better to stop these bills from becoming law than fight them in court. Lawmakers nationwide need to hear from us that they can't get away with attacking access to abortion care, IVF, birth control, and other reproductive health care services. Otherwise the attack on women's health care will continue and the courts are not a failsafe option.
Is there something you can do?
Yes. We need to let North Dakota politicians know that the country is watching and we have had enough. We have to make a stand here and now to stop invasive political intrusions between a woman and her doctor. Sign the petition telling Governor Dalrymple to veto the North Dakota abortion ban. Share with your friends so they do the same. And then check out what's happening in your state. Tell your elected officials "hands off women's health care."
Update: On Friday, March 22, the North Dakota legislature took further steps to restrict a woman’s access to abortion care. The State House of Representatives failed to pass a so-called “personhood” bill, but approved a similar proposal as a 2014 ballot measure, which, if approved by the voters, could open the door to banning all abortion and IVF. The House also gave final approval to a bill designed to shut down the one abortion clinic in the state. That bill now heads to the governor’s desk, joining two other bills awaiting his action.