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Published January 27 2014

Forum editorial: Abortion legislation no victory

As much as there is to admire in Rep. Bette Grande’s uncompromising position on stopping abortions in North Dakota, the Fargo Republican is just plain wrong about the efficacy of legislation she and others championed in the 2013 Legislature. The new state laws are going nowhere. They have had no appreciable effect on abortion. They will not survive legal scrutiny.

While the several bills certainly made a statement, the statement had been made many times before; the pro-life position of most state legislators was well-known long before the flawed bills were introduced. The bills (and legal bills that are piling up) were a waste of legislative time and energy, a reality that is becoming evident as similar legislation from other states is slapped down by federal courts. What is unfolding on the legal front is precisely what opponents of the bills said would happen.

All the North Dakota bills save one face legal hurdles. That one, the 20-week abortion ban, has not been challenged because it is moot. The Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, the state’s only abortion provider, only performs the procedure up to 16 weeks of pregnancy. Given that circumstance, it is difficult to see any sense to Grande’s conclusion that the 20-week ban bill is a victory, unless she means exclusively a legislative victory. It certainly has made no difference in how or when the clinic performs abortions.

Thus far, the state has spent more than a quarter of a million dollars defending abortion-related laws, and more spending is certain. The state has nothing to show for it, other than bills for outside lawyers and expert witnesses. For those folks, defense of indefensible laws is a gravy train, courtesy of the taxpayers of North Dakota.

There is a plain-as-day difference between a good cause (ending abortion) and a flawed strategy to advance that cause (unconstitutional legislation). No matter how proponents of the North Dakota legislation spin it, not a single abortion has been or will be prevented because of the new state laws. By any honest measure, that is not a victory.

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