North Dakota Passes Most Restrictive Abortion Ban

State testing limits of Roe vs. Wade with new abortion bills.

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One provision would forbid women from aborting a fetus because of genetic diseases like Down syndrome or because of the sex.

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Tammi Kromenaker, the director of North Dakota's only abortion clinic in Fargo, spent the day reassuring women that 'yes' they could still come to the clinic for their appointments. But by the end of the summer the services her clinic provides could be drastically restricted.

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple approved a bill Tuesday that would make the state's abortion laws the narrowest in the country.

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The law—which would start in August—bans abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, or as soon as a heartbeat can be found.

"This is a back door attempt to ban abortion," Kromenaker says.

While the state's Republican governor recognized the law may not hold up to a lawsuit, its passage was intended to try the limits of the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe vs. Wade upholding the right to an abortion.

"Although the likelihood of this measure surviving a court challenge remains in question, this bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade," Dalrymple said in a statement. "Because the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed state restrictions on the performing of abortions and because the Supreme Court has never considered this precise restriction ... the constitutionality of this measure is an open question."

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North Dakota also passed a two other provisions Tuesday. One would forbid women from aborting a fetus because of genetic diseases like Down syndrome or because of the sex. And the other measure would require abortion doctors in the state have a license to practice in local hospitals.

In 2012, Congress tried unsuccessfully to ban abortions based on sex selection.

"We are definitely passing more legislation than normal. We are on the forefront on protecting life," says Paul Maloney, the executive director of North Dakota Right to Life. "We believe in an incremental approach to protecting all human rights."

But while pro-life groups are applauding the governor's move, some in the state call the ban way out of line and a bold attempt to stop a woman's right to choose.

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Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL, Pro-Choice America, says that North Dakota's abortion laws, which are some of the most restrictive in the nation, are so over the top that they equate to a total ban.

"To deny women options to care before they even know they're pregnant is just plain cruel," Hogues said in a statement.

EMILY's List, a campaign fundraising group that supports pro-choice candidates, says that it will hold North Dakotan politicians accountable for voting in favor of such a restrictive bill.

"We will continue to fight to elect more pro-choice Democratic women who believe in empowering women to make their own personal decisions that are best for themselves and for their families," Stephanie Schriock, the president of EMILY's List, told U.S. News in an email statement.

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North Dakota Republicans hold the state house and the governor's mansion, but the state has one Democratic senator representing its interests in Washington.

The fight over abortion will continue even after the new laws take effect at the end of the summer. Kromenaker says that pro-choice groups are planning to pursue legal actions over the legislation.

And North Dakotans will also have to confront abortion in 2014 when residents decide at the polls whether life starts at conception. Voters in Mississippi and Colorado voted down similar "personhood" amendments in 2010 and 2011.

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