North Dakota Senate Changes Abortion Trigger Law to Special Session Vote

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 6, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

North Dakota Senate Changes Abortion Trigger Law to Special Session Vote Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 6
, 2007

Bismarck, ND ( — Members of the North Dakota Senate on Thursday voted to change a bill that proposed an abortion trigger law which would ban abortions once the Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade decision. Instead, they turned it into a measure that would call for a special session to vote on abortion if the high court reverses itself.

The original bill would have banned all abortions in the state except those necessary to save the life of the mother and would have gone into effect immediately upon the Supreme Court’s decision.

The state House approved the measure by a large margin in January but the Senate voted 26-21 to change the bill.

Under the new language, the legislature would return to Bismarck for a special session but only if the state Attorney General thinks the state is able to pass its own abortion ban.

Sen. Tracy Potter, a Democrat who proposed the change, told the Bismarck Tribune that it was a compromise between lawmakers who supported the original trigger law and those who didn’t.

"This is really what we want to do if Roe v. Wade is overturned," Potter said. "We want to deal with that issue then. We don’t want to do it beforehand."

But the bill must go to a conference committee to work out the differences before it heads to the governor and some legislators such as Republican Sen. Stanley Lyson want to see the trigger law restored.

"If we’re not going to pass a bill that means anything, then we might as well kill the bill," Lyson told the newspaper.

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.

Tim Stanley, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, has been lobbying against the bill but pro-life groups, including North Dakota Right to Life and the North Dakota Catholic Conference are supporting it.

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.

They did not have comments at press time about the changes the Senate made.

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 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."

Related web sites:
North Dakota state legislature –
North Dakota Right to Life –
North Dakota Catholic Conference –