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Published July 23 2013

Forum editorial: Next step hate mail to judge?

No one of even modest intelligence was surprised when a federal judge ruled that one of North Dakota’s newly minted restrictive abortion laws was unconstitutional. Even the most ardent supporters of the law conceded the federal court would put it on hold. U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland did just that Monday, explaining his ruling in clear language that was, in effect, a lesson in law for the North Dakota Legislature that passed the bill, and Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who signed the legis-lation into law.

Nonetheless, a few lawmakers refuse to distinguish between the law and their obsession with ridding North Dakota of abortion providers, no matter the cost to women’s health. Rep. Bette Grande, R-Fargo, a vocal leader in the successful drive to pass the unconstitutional law, took a not-too-subtle swipe at Judge Hovland. In response to his ruling she said, “ … I am surprised we have people who don’t think a beating heart is important. Our society has seen North Dakota as a pro-life state that has stated its compelling interest in the life of the child.”

As Grande and her allies have done throughout the 2013 abortion debate, she purposefully missed the point. The judge’s ruling was not about abortion. It was about the law. Hovland, a conservative jurist who was appointed to the bench in 2002 by Republican President George W. Bush, was obligated to rule in accordance with the law as it is. He did not have the luxury of indulging his personal beliefs about abortion, whatever they might be. Yet, abortion opponents ungraciously suggested the judge “doesn’t think a beating heart is important.” That remark not only is insulting, it also confirms that the rule of law means little to a radical cabal of anti-abortion lawmakers.

What’s next? Sending hate mail to the judge?

Hovland’s expected ruling is one front in a legal tussle that likely will go on for years. His decision surely will be appealed. Additionally, a state district judge’s ruling that vacates other anti-abortion measures is on its way to appeal at the North Dakota Supreme Court. All of this, by the way, will cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands (some estimate millions) of dollars, thanks to a “conservative” legislative majority that tries to sell itself as fiscally responsible.

Meanwhile, the Legislature’s quixotic behavior has not prevented a single abortion from being performed in North Dakota. Not one.

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