The North Dakota legislature Friday approved two bills that would prevent abortions after a fetal heartbeat is heard — possibly as early as five weeks into a pregnancy — or in cases where the abortion is sought only because of an inherited fetal abnormality, such as Down syndrome.
Opponents urged North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, a Republican, not to sign the bills; however, he has signaled his support for the measures.
The North Dakota “heartbeat” bill would rate as perhaps the most restrictive in the county. Earlier this month, Arkansas became the first state to enact — over the Democratic governor’s veto — a “fetal heartbeat” law to prohibit abortions, with some exceptions, after 12 weeks gestation.
The North Dakota bill permits some exceptions, but essentially bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be heard — which could be around the fifth week of gestation. Exceptions include abortions for a “medical emergency” or to prevent death or severe injury of the pregnant woman.
The second North Dakota bill bars abortions based solely on gender or “genetic abnormalities” of the fetus. This includes “elimination of one or more unborn children in a multifetal pregnancy,” unless it is done to save the life of the unborn child or in cases of ectopic pregnancy. Genetic abnormalities as defined the bill include Down syndrome, dwarfism and other inherited disorders.
Both bills were sponsored by GOP state Rep. Bette Grande, a well-known pro-life supporter, and colleagues in both chambers.
This “dangerous ban” takes effect very early in pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant, warned Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, who urged Gov. Dalrymple to veto the bill.