Just last week, North Dakota legislators approved a ban on most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected and abortions based solely on fetal genetic anomalies.
North Dakota is the only state that has taken these measures in regulating abortions. This controversial issue will test the boundaries of Roe v. Wade like no other legislation has before and makes these laws the most stringent in the nation.
The Republican-controlled legislature quickly passed both of these bills which resulted in a demonstration at the state Capitol,
promised lawsuits from organizations such as Planned Parenthood and calls for even more abortion regulation. For example, representatives endorsed two other anti-abortion bills just last week, which would define life as beginning with conception and effectively ban abortion in the state. Both of these were approved by the House and the Senate and are likely to be sent to voters in November of 2014.
Governor Jack Dalrymple also approved legislation that will now require physicians who perform abortions in the state to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. This would mean that Red River Women's Clinic, the only clinic providing abortions in North Dakota, and its physicians would be under a new level of regulation where they have to be qualified to perform a procedure in a hospital before they can be qualified to perform it in the clinic.
If Red River closes and forces women to look elsewhere for their healthcare, the nearest clinics that perform abortions are 250 miles to the south in the Twin Cities or Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In such an isolated and expansive state, this battle is crucial to the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood. Both say that these new laws violate the Supreme Court's rulings and that they intend to challenge them in the courts.
These laws have been met with mixed feelings. A protest on the Capitol attracted more than 300 abortion and women's rights activists last Monday but legislators such as Senator Margaret Sitte are calling it a victory, saying, "I've gotten so many emails every day – at least 100," referring to the newly passed laws. "My constituents are very happy with this bill." Other conservatives are less than pleased, saying that the government should not be intruding in peoples lives in this manner.
Whether or not these measures will hold up in court is still up for debate among many legal scholars. Governor Dalrymple said, "Although the likelihood of this measure surviving a court challenge remains in question, this bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state legislator to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade," later adding that the Supreme Court, "has never considered this precise restriction," referring to the heartbeat bill.