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NANCE AND MYRDAL: How ‘new’ science alters the abortion debate

North Dakota leads the way

- - Wednesday, March 27, 2013

At what stage do states have a legitimate interest in protecting human life? Six weeks? Six months? Six years?

This question was answered by brave North Dakota lawmakers last week as they passed common-sense laws based on new science and technology that allow us to clearly see a beating heart and life within the womb. HB 1305 and HB 1456 ban abortions after a detectable heartbeat and for reasons of gender selection and genetic abnormalities. This technology was not available 40 years ago when the Supreme Court made the landmark decision to allow abortion on demand, overriding states' rights in the infamous Roe v. Wade case.

The sex selection-genetic abnormalities law simply affirms that anti-discrimination laws already on the books should apply to all persons, regardless of age. Every child deserves the right to live, regardless of its sex, genetic abnormalities or a potential genetic abnormality. Our Founding Fathers clearly delineated the right to life as one that is unalienable and endowed by our Creator. It is horrific that in America today babies are being killed on the basis of their sex or genetic abnormalities. America is the only advanced country that does not restrict sex-selection through law.

A human heartbeat in the womb can be detected as early as six weeks of gestation (often earlier), and the North Dakota law bans all abortions when there is a detectable heartbeat. It is a universally accepted fact that a beating human heart is the fundamental affirmation of life. Maybe this is why no opposing discussion was heard in either chamber as this bill came up for a vote.

Of course, the abortion industry is crying foul, saying that none of these laws will pass muster in court. We say, "Bring it on." Abortionists have opposed everything from partial-birth abortion bans to ultrasound bills, and they continue to lose in court. This will be no different.

The saddest argument is that taxpayer dollars will be "wasted" to defend the legislation. When faced with regulation of any kind, pro-abortion liberals become fiscal conservatives in a heartbeat (no pun intended). It probably has nothing to do with the profits they stand to lose from potential clients. Still, even forgetting that there are hundreds of legal experts willing to defend the law pro bono, not a single penny is wasted in the defense of life. Abortionists are silent on $5 million in taxpayer money wasted on Senate haircuts, but they cannot stand seeing any money used to defend life.

Besides, the heartbeat legislation will withstand judicial review. Roe and Casey left the states "legitimate interests from the outset of the pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the fetus." Those arguing that the law is unconstitutional argue that it places restrictions on the right to privacy. Yet that is simply not enough. The heartbeat law goes to the balance raised in Roe and Casey, weighing the state's duty to protect life with a woman's right to privacy. The law acknowledges 40 years of advancement in science and medicine, which weigh in favor of life. It acknowledges the right to privacy, but it also says the state's legitimate duty becomes stronger once a heartbeat is present and detectable. Nothing has been done to the right to privacy; the right to life has become weightier.

Abortionists fear this law because they know Americans with common sense from either side of the political aisle can agree that, at the very least, a beating human heart deserves full protection under the law, regardless of age, gender or disability. The idea is not challenged but fundamentally supported by our Constitution.North Dakota has been at the center of the debate over life as long as there has been a debate. Before it was even a state, North Dakota had a territorial law prohibiting abortion (adopted in 1877 - 12 years before it was a state). That prohibition was carried over to the Century Code after it became a state and stayed on the books until Roe. In fact, in November 1972 (two months before Roe was decided in January 1973), North Dakota voters rejected - by a three-to-one margin - a ballot measure that would have weakened their abortion laws. North Dakota was a pro-life state from before "Day One."Steve Forbes once said, "Our Founding Fathers created a nation based on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Switch the order of these three fundamental human rights - putting happiness before liberty or liberty before life - and you end up with moral chaos and social anarchy." Forty years ago, we did switch those values around, and Americans must ask themselves today, "Are we better off because of it?"We simply cannot continue to ignore the ever-increasing scientific, technological and experiential evidence from the past 40 years revealing that unrestricted abortion on demand has hurt our nation. We are proud of North Dakota for being the first state to take that bold step.

Penny Young Nance is CEO and president of Concerned Women for America (CWA). Janne Myrdal is the CWA state director for North Dakota.