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James Macpherson, Associated Press, Published April 12 2013

'Fetal pain' measure sent to North Dakota governor

BISMARCK – A measure that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the disputed premise that a fetus can by then feel pain was sent to the North Dakota governor Friday.

The North Dakota Legislature is taking a multi-pronged approach this session in trying to make North Dakota the most restrictive state in the nation in which to get the procedure, with Gov. Jack Dalrymple already signing three measures into law, including one that bans abortions when a heartbeat can be detected – as early as six weeks into a pregnancy and before some women even know they’re pregnant.

Lawmakers’ intent is to challenge the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until viability, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.

The so-called “fetal pain” bill passed the House on Friday with a 60-32 vote. The bill, which was approved by the Senate 30-17 in February, now goes to the Republican governor, who has hinted he will sign it.

Republican state Sen. Joe Miller, the bill’s primary sponsor, said the measure was “a different precedent and a different strategy” than other anti-abortion measures introduced this session.

State lawmakers also moved last month to outlaw abortion in the state by passing a resolution defining life as starting at conception, essentially banning abortion in the state. The measure is likely to come before voters in November 2014.

Abortion rights advocates say the laws are unconstitutional and have promised a legal fight.

Rep. Peter Silbernagel, R-Casselton, said Friday the “fetal pain” bill was worthwhile because it “recognizes unborn children do feel pain.”

Democratic Sen. Mac Schneider, the Senate’s minority leader and a Grand Forks attorney, said the spate of abortion bills this session has meant other important issues have taken a back seat.

“I believe it has taken a lot of the oxygen out of the room when it comes to other challenges we are facing this session,” Schneider said. “This is another bill that will be litigated – that much we know.”

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