North Dakota House passes near-total abortion ban with limited exceptions

There are exceptions for rape or incest, but only up to six weeks.

April 18, 2023, 12:37 PM

Lawmakers in North Dakota advanced an abortion bill Monday that seeks to ban the procedure with few exceptions.

The state House passed SB 2150 with a vote of 76-14, mostly along party lines, which makes performing or aiding an abortion a class C felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000.

According to the language in the bill, the pregnant woman would not be charged.

The only exceptions are if the mother's health or life are in danger and in cases of rape or incest, but only up until six weeks' gestation, before many women know they're pregnant.

Additionally, the state's Department of Health & Human Services will be required to publish material on services that can assist a woman through pregnancy, color photographs documenting the development of a fetus, material on the "long-term risks" of an abortion and the possibility of reversing an abortion.

PHOTO: FILE - The North Dakota Capitol tower rises in the background behind a stone sign, April 19, 2012, in Bismarck, N.D.
The North Dakota Capitol tower rises in the background behind a stone sign, April 19, 2012, in Bismarck, N.D.
Dale Wetzel/AP, FILE

The bill will next head to the Senate. If it passes, Gov. Doug Burgum is expected to sign it into law.

It comes just a month after the North Dakota Supreme Court declared a trigger ban that was set to go into effect -- which would make it a felony to perform an abortion with only exceptions for rape, incest or if the mother's life is in danger -- as unconstitutional.

"We're going to send another message to the North Dakota Supreme Court," said House Majority Leader Mike Lefor, a Republican. "This is what this Legislature wants. We want pro-life in North Dakota."

While anti-abortion groups, including North Dakota Right to Life, praised the decision, Democratic lawmakers criticized it.

"The 6-week 'exception' is before most people know they are pregnant, particularly young victims of sexual violence, and forcing an unwanted pregnancy to continue adds to the trauma," Rep. Karla Rose Hanson, who voted against the bill, wrote in a tweet.

She pointed out that in 2014, about two-thirds of voters in North Dakota rejected a ballot measure that would have amended the state constitution to declare an "inalienable right to life" for humans at any stage of development, essentially banning abortion.

"Proponents of the bill said this 'cleans up' & 'clarifies' existing abortion law, but in reality the trigger ban has been enjoined, so this bill puts new restrictions into law," she added.

Katie Christensen, state director of external affairs for Planned Parenthood North Dakota Action Fund, also decried the passing of the bill.

"It's heartbreaking and frustrating to watch a near total abortion ban pass the North Dakota House after the Supreme Court recognized the right to life saving and health preserving abortions," she said in a statement. "Abortion is essential health care, and North Dakotans deserve to make decisions about their bodies and futures."

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, at least 14 states have ceased nearly all abortion services.

Florida will be the 15th state once a new six-week abortion ban is implemented -- but only if the state's current 15-week ban is upheld as legal challenges play out in court.

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