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Published March 21 2013

Forum editorial: Veto ND abortion legislation

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple should veto the abortion bills passed, or soon to be passed, by the Republican majorities in the Legislature.

The bills are unconstitutional.

They are astonishing violations of the patient-doctor relationship.

They constitute a guarantee of lengthy court challenges that will cost the taxpayers millions of dollars, and the state will certainly lose.

They are a direct threat to North Dakota’s tops-in-the-nation health care sector, and perverse incentives for medical school graduates to practice anywhere but in North Dakota.

A dedicated cabal of zealots has been pushing the legislation. They have threatened political consequences if lawmakers don’t vote their way. Legislators who normally are motivated by common sense have been cowed. It’s been a disappointing spectacle to see good legislators tumble like pawns in the zealots’ political chess game.

Dalrymple should not be part of that crowd. As a former legislator, the governor sometimes defers too easily to the Legislature. And while his service in the North Dakota House, in particular as chairman of the Appropriations Committee for many years, was outstanding, he wears the governor’s hat now. When the lawmaking branch makes bad law, he is obligated to say so, and then to exercise the veto.

The abortion bills are tilts at the windmill. They will not stop a single abortion in the state. Instead, they will entangle the state in expensive litigation while at the same time force the clumsy hand of the state into the most personal matters that face families, their doctors and their clergy.

If ever there was cause for the governor to sharpen his veto pen, the abortion legislation is it. The arguments against the bills are sound. The arguments for them are deeply flawed and dishonest. Dalrymple and his executive staff surely understand that. The governor is popular because people know him to be a pragmatic conservative who knows how to get things done. He is not an ideological bomb-thrower, and that’s his greatest appeal among a vast majority of North Dakotans.

The state has been detoured into a bitter quagmire – a creation of self-serving ecclesiastical bullies, who happily misuse the legislative process to advance an inappropriate and sanctimonious agenda. They should not get away with it.

Dalrymple has common sense and reality on his side. He can use his bully pulpit for compelling fact-based veto messages, and then use his considerable influence and the respect he commands to convince at least one chamber of the Legislature to sustain his vetoes.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.