(PRESS RELEASE) North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple has signed into law today the earliest and most extreme abortion ban in the country—making virtually all abortions in the state illegal after the point at which a fetal heart tone can be detected, about six weeks of pregnancy.
The Center for Reproductive Rights has committed to challenging HB 1456 on behalf the Red River Women's Clinic, the state's only abortion clinic, before the law is scheduled to take effect on August 1, 2013.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
"North Dakota has set a new standard for extreme hostility toward the rights and health of women, the U.S. Constitution, and 40 years of Supreme Court precedent. We will not allow this frontal assault on fundamental reproductive rights to go unchallenged.
"We don\'t need to guess about the brutal harm this criminalization of abortion will cause. We know from the United States\' own shameful history prior to Roe v. Wade and from examples around the world that women desperate to end a pregnancy will find ways to do so whether it is safe and legal or not—and some will suffer and die as a result.
"Governor Dalrymple and anti-choice politicians in North Dakota have relegated the women in their state to a second class of citizens today whose constitutional rights are lesser than those of other states where women's rights are protected and guaranteed. We intend to take every legal step possible to ensure this blatant assault on women's fundamental rights is struck down."
The governor also approved SB 2305—a measure designed to shut down North Dakota's only abortion clinic by imposing medically unwarranted requirements that any physician performing abortions obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. A nearly identical measure passed and signed into law in Mississippi last year is currently being challenged in federal court by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the last abortion provider in that state.
"There is no question that the goal of anti-choice politicians in North Dakota is to shut down the state's only abortion provider, and shut down women's access to safe and legal abortion along with it," added Northup. "We are prepared to take whatever steps necessary to keep the Red River Women's Clinic's doors open to the nearly 1,500 women from North Dakota and surrounding area who seek reproductive health care services there each year. "
Further, Governor Dalrymple signed HB 1305 into law, an unconstitutional bill banning abortions for reasons of sex-selection or genetic fetal anomaly—the first of its kind in the nation. The Center for Reproductive Rights is currently reviewing the impact of this law.
"The U.S. Supreme Court has been clear in protecting women's constitutional right to make their own decision whether to continue or end a pre-viability pregnancy based on the complicated individual and personal circumstances they face," said Northup. "This law is merely a cynical attempt to choke off access to the reproductive health care services they need to exercise that right and give politicians license to question and intrude upon women's personal and private decisions."
With the passage of these new laws, North Dakota is now home to the most extreme restrictions on women's constitutionally protected reproductive rights in the nation. Earlier this month, the Arkansas State Legislature overrode Governor Beebe's veto to enact a law banning abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy. The Center for Reproductive Rights, the Americans Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Arkansas will challenge that law in federal court in the coming weeks.
The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held—first in Roe v. Wade and again in Planned Parenthood v. Casey—that states cannot ban abortion prior to viability.
Last week, the state legislature passed SCR 4009 , which will place a so-called "personhood" measure on the state ballot in 2014 that, if approved, could ban abortion, threaten access to some forms of birth control, and interfere with women and families trying to have children using fertility treatments like IVF.
The Center for Reproductive Rights is currently representing the Red River Women's Clinic in a lawsuit to overturn a 2011 law effectively banning the use of medication abortion in North Dakotava measure that would deny women access to an alternative to surgical abortion that has been widely recognized as safe and effective by medical experts and organizations worldwide. The law has been temporarily blocked by a state judge from enforcement since July 2011 and a trial on the matter will be held in April 2013.