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TJ Jerke, Forum News Service, Published March 22 2013

North Dakota takes more swings at abortion

BISMARCK – While Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, the state’s only abortion clinic, said she is “completely disappointed North Dakota legislators would want to go this far,” a leading abortion opponent says their actions reflect the desire of residents to protect all human life.

House lawmakers passed two bills Friday that seek stricter regulations over abortions performed in the state, joining two other abortion regulation bills that are awaiting Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s signature.

North Dakota voters will also have their say in the abortion debate in 2014. A resolution passed Friday to change the constitution to protect human beings at every stage of life, such as conception, is now on the statewide ballot. It does not require the governor’s signature.

The resolution’s sponsor, Sen. Margaret Sitte, R-Bismarck, said she was glad the resolution is going to a vote of the people and thinks they will uphold it, affirming their belief in the right to life.

“The votes reflect the people very closely,” she said. “I think these actions just confirm the widespread belief in upholding the sanctity of life of all human beings that North Dakota citizens share.”

If signed, all of the abortion bills face potential challenges about their constitutionality. No bills have been delivered to Dalrymple, who will have three days to sign them when they are.

Dalrymple hasn’t publicly said whether he plans to veto any of the bills, but his communications office has said he will look them over closely.

One bill passed Friday defines life as beginning at conception and outlaws abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. Another requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic, something opponents described as unnecessary and onerous.

“All of these extreme bills overstep boundaries of appropriate government and go against what most of those who voted for it believe,” Kromenaker said. “They want small government, less intrusion into family life, but yet are willing to put themselves between a woman and her doctor.”

The House stopped short of approving a bill that would have defined a human being “as an individual member of the species homo sapiens at every stage of development” and prohibited the willful destruction of healthy human embryos for in vitro fertilization.

Senate Bill 2303, known as the “personhood bill,” which drew a considerable amount of the afternoon debate, was defeated by a 49-43 vote.

The idea of personhood, and defining when life begins, was also part of the debate over Senate Concurrent Resolution 4009, which was approved 57-35.

Rep. Eliot Glassheim, D-Grand Forks, pointed out to the House eight different religious views toward life that varied from conception to birth.

“I ask that you rise above the temptation to legislate one religious belief for people who do not share that belief,” he said. “I urge you to stay true to America’s … tradition that religious matters are to be decided by individual conscience rather than by the imposition of government power.”

Rep. Alex Looysen, R-Jamestown, fielded a question from Rep. Jessica Haak, D-Jamestown, asking whether the bill defines when life begins. He noted it does not, but merely protects life.

“Let’s stand up for those that can’t speak, the unborn children,” he said. “Let’s grant them basic human rights.”

The human rights protections for unborn babies would come with the constitutional amendment that would include, “The inalienable right to life at every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”

Dalrymple will also have Senate Bill 2305 before him to sign. The bill would require a physician performing an abortion to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility.

Sponsored by Sen. Spencer Berry, R-Fargo, the bill passed 58-34.

Rep. Vernon Laning, R-Bismarck, carried the bill to the floor and said the bill will help protect women since they could be admitted to a hospital if there was a complication.

“I certainly think a woman undergoing a procedure would want as many safety precautions as possible,” he said. “It ensures the physician is well-qualified to address the problem.”

Rep. Kylie Oversen, D-Grand Forks, pointed out that there are only two hospitals in the state a physician performing an abortion can receive admitting privileges, but it requires a physician to admit 10 patients per year to maintain those privileges.

She said the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, the state’s only abortion clinic, has had to transport only one patient from the clinic to the hospital in the past 10 years.

“We’re dealing with an unnecessary bill,” she told the House floor.

Abortions after 20 weeks may soon be illegal with Dalrymple’s signature.

Senate Bill 2368, sponsored by Sen. Joe Miller, R-Park River, passed through the House Friday afternoon by a 60-32 vote.

The bill would also increase reporting requirements for abortions and prohibit a public higher education institution from contracting with an entity that performs or counsels in favor of abortions.

It does exempt an abortion in the case of a medical emergency.

Meanwhile, almost 200 people have confirmed to a Facebook page that they are attending the Stand Up for Women news conference and rally Monday in the great hall of the Capitol to discuss legislation affecting women’s rights to privacy in health care.

The page said the group will meet today at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bismarck to make signs for the rally.


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