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Erik Burgess, Published March 26 2013

Tuesday a ‘glorious day’ for anti-abortion advocates

FARGO – For anti-abortion advocates, Tuesday was a day to rejoice.

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed three strict anti-abortion bills into law, putting the state at the forefront of a national fight against abortion.

As she left a late morning Mass Tuesday at the Cathedral of St. Mary, Trish Thorson hadn’t yet heard about Dalrymple signing the bills, but she welcomed the development with a piercing, ear-to-ear smile.

“It’s just a glorious day. Coming from Mass and this beautiful service and then hearing this,” the 51-year-old south Fargo resident said. “With the new Pope, I just feel like there’s an awakening coming in Christianity and this is just another sign.”

The new laws are set to take effect Aug. 1. HB 1305 bans abortions solely for the purpose of gender selection and genetic abnormalities. HB 1456 bans abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, usually around the six-week mark. SB 2305 requires that physicians who perform abortions have admitting and staff privileges at nearby hospitals.

North Dakotans will vote on a fourth measure in 2014 – one which would change the state constitution so that it defines life as beginning at conception.

Critics say the provisions will likely lead to lengthy court challenges and may be struck down, but it’s a point of pride regardless for those who oppose abortion access and want to see the practice criminalized.

“I’m very happy for North Dakota,” said Stephanie Juve, a mother of six who lives in Thompson. “It’s very much needed for our country because we have a culture in America that is very much anti-life and is just not very protective of little babies and the weak.”

Shanley High School senior Angela Cowles, president of the school’s Teens for Life organization, said she hopes the new laws create a “domino effect” across the country.

“People will react to these laws and think, ‘Well, is it logical for us to ask abortion facilities to detect a heartbeat, a sign of human life?’ ” she said. “We’re making other states question themselves, hopefully. In a good way.”

Cowles was one of 145 Shanley students who traveled to Washington, D.C., in January for the 40th annual March for Life event, an anti-abortion rally on the National Mall. It was the third consecutive year that the school has attended the rally.

In rallies across the state on Monday – including in Fargo – pro-abortion rights protesters gathered, many of them calling the provisions anti-woman. Cowles contested that, arguing that the new laws are a positive step for women’s rights.

“This should be ultimately a victory for everybody, especially with the bill that says you cannot abort based on gender,” she said. “Isn’t that protecting women’s rights even before they’re born?”

In signing the bills, Dalrymple acknowledged that ensuing court battles over the legality of the legislation are likely, but that didn’t damper supporters.

“I’ve heard that it’s going to be fought in the Supreme Court,” Thorson said, still smiling. “But at least it’s a start.”

Another St. Mary’s parishioner on Tuesday, Mary Pat Jahner, of Warsaw, said she’s been praying for the bills to pass for a long time, and she extended “a big thank you” to Dalrymple.

“We just want every child to be able to have the right to life, and so many people in this state believe that,” she said. “(I’m) glad that our laws are now reflecting that.”

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518