by Steven Ertelt
March 12, 2007
Bismarck, ND (LifeNews.com) — The North Dakota state Senate will begin debating a bill this week that would prohibit abortions there if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned by the Supreme Court. The state House approved the measure in January by a wide bipartisan margin.
The bill would ban most abortions, leaving it legal only in extremely rare cases when it might be necessary to save the life of the mother.
The legislation, known as a trigger law, would only go into effect if the nation’s high court reverses the landmark abortion decision.
The House voted 61-26 to pass a measure (HB 1466), which would charge anyone who does an abortion with a five year prison term and a $5,000 fine. The bill would also give parents of pregnant minors and partners of pregnant women the right to file suit to stop an abortion.
On Tuesday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the bill, and observers say the vote in the Senate may be closer than the House margin.
Tim Stanley, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, told the Bismarck Tribune that the abortion business will strongly oppose the bill in the Senate.
"For us, keeping the abortion decision between a woman and her doctor is a top priority," he said. "The Legislature, we think, is going to take a common sense approach and say this bill goes too far for North Dakotans."
But pro-life groups, including North Dakota Right to Life and the North Dakota Catholic Conference, think they have a good shot at getting the bill to the governor.
Christopher Dodson, executive director of the latter group, told the newspaper the conservative rural state would have banned abortion already if not for Roe and expects legislators to support it.
Dodson said his group supports the bill because it doesn’t have prison terms and fines for women, like past abortions bans that the legislature has rejected.
Rep. James Kerzman, a Democrat, is the primary sponsor of the measure and he said unborn children must be protected in all circumstances, even if a pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.
"My parents raised me to accept all life, and I have never questioned that," he said.
Another Democrat, Rep. Ralph Metcalf, and two Republicans, Sen. Randel Christmann and Sen. Robert Erbele, are also co-sponsoring the bill.
Last June, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco signed a trigger law for that state and Dorinda Bordlee, a long-time pro-life attorney and vice president of the Bioethics Defense Fund, told LifeNews.com other states should follow Louisiana’s lead.
"Our approach to include a post-Roe activation clause, sometimes called a trigger clause, enabled the legislators to speak their hearts without abortion industry lawyer’s breathing down their backs," Bordlee explained.
"It allowed post-abortive women to educate the legislators about how abortion negatively impacted their lives in profound ways," Bordlee added. "Other states that choose to follow Louisiana’s lead will help build a consensus to reverse Roe."