BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota has been poised for years to ban abortions if the US Supreme Court overturns its landmark 1973 ruling that legalized the procedure.
A 2007 state law makes it a felony to perform an abortion unless it is necessary to prevent the woman’s death or in cases of rape or incest. Violations are punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The law will take effect when the legislative council passes a motion recommended by the attorney general that it is “reasonably likely” the law will be upheld as constitutional.
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North Dakota is one of a dozen states, including South Dakota, that have laws that would take effect if the US Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, as a leaked draft opinion suggested Monday night.
North Dakota’s Republican-led Legislature has routinely passed restrictive anti-abortion measures, including one that would have banned abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can happen before a woman knows she’s pregnant. she is pregnant
The 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalized abortion until the fetus is considered viable, usually between 22 and 24 weeks. The fetal heartbeat law never went into effect because the state’s only abortion clinic, the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, successfully challenged it in court.
Red River Women’s Clinic director Tammi Kromenaker called the leaked decision devastating.
“I think we are looking at the final opinion,” he said. “The writing has been on the wall for some time. It’s what we’ve all been preparing for.”
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The clinic, in downtown Fargo, sees patients from several nearby states. Fargo borders Minnesota, where there are more protections for abortions than in North Dakota and South Dakota. Kromenaker, who previously rejected the suggestion of moving the clinic across the border, said he would now consider it.
“I plan to do everything in my power to maintain a presence in the area,” Kromenaker said. “If that means going across the river to Minnesota, that’s what we’re going to do.”
North Dakota recorded 1,171 abortions in 2020, the latest figures available from the state Department of Health.
Republican Sen. Janne Myrdal, who is one of the most ardent anti-abortion lawmakers in the North Dakota Legislature, said overturning Roe v. Wade would be the biggest failure of her life and “something I’ve been hoping and praying for.” But, she said, the draft opinion should not have been leaked and she called the leak “dangerous to the institution of the Supreme Court.”
“It was a malicious leak and whoever is responsible needs to be held accountable,” he said.
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