North Dakota governor approves six-week abortion ban


North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple has signed legislation that would ban most abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, something that can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The Republican governor also signed into law another measure that would makes North Dakota the first to ban abortions based on genetic defects such as Down syndrome.

Abortion-rights advocates say the measures signed Tuesday are an attempt to close the state's sole abortion clinic in Fargo. Supporters of the so-called fetal heartbeat measure say it's a challenge the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until a fetus is considered viable, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.

Abortion-rights advocates say the state will have to defend the legislation in a costly legal fight.

Also, North Dakota lawmakers took a step toward outlawing abortion altogether in the state by passing a so-called personhood resolution last week that says a fertilized egg has the same right to life as a person. The House's approval sends the matter to voters, who will decide whether to add the wording to the state's constitution in November 2014.

No matter what side of the issue they're on, almost everyone has a story to share. For North Dakota's majority leader, his story has to do with his son.

"He was born to a 16-year old female young North Dakota lady from Dickinson and a 19-year old father. His mother at that point in time in 1975 could have had him aborted. Thank God they didn't," said Rep. Al Carlson (R-Fargo).

But other lawmakers continued to stress that they believe it isn't a decision for the state to make.

"As a young woman who has not yet had the privilege of becoming a mother, I want to know that when I make a decision to do so any already difficult decision that I must face with my physicians and my family will not be complicated by legal matters, by an overreach of state government," said Rep. Kylie Oversen (D-Grand Forks).

 Another abortion-related law sent to the North Dakota's governor's desk requires any doctor performing an abortion to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

"A great number of surgical procedures are performed outside of the hospital. I, myself, have performed hundreds and hundreds of these procedures and I am not required to have hospital privileges. So this will be a new arena for the government in regulating physicians," said Rep. Rick Becker (R-Mismarck).

Supporters say the requirement will provide more safety to women who are having an abortion.