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US: North Dakota bans almost all abortions

April 25, 2023

The new law only allows terminations for exceptional cases such as rape, incest or medical emergency within the first six weeks of pregnancy.

Janne Myrdal speaks during a North Dakota Senate debate in 2017
North Dakota State Senator Janne Myrdal sponsored the tough abortion billImage: Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP/picture alliance

Governor Doug Burgum signed a new anti-abortion law in North Dakota on Monday, making it one of the strictest in the USA.

The law makes it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion, except for slim exceptions up to six weeks' gestation. Those exceptions include rape, incest, and emergency cases such as ectopic pregnancy. 

"This bill clarifies and refines existing state law which was triggered into effect by the (US Supreme Court) Dobbs decision and reaffirms North Dakota as a pro-life state," Burgum said in a statement, according to the Rapid City Journal.

This new law comes as several other states have also enacted similar measures in response to last year's Supreme Court ruling that overturned the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, enabling states to impose restrictions.

The bill cleared both houses of the North Dakota legislature.

North Dakota latest state to impose restrictions

With the legal changes, North Dakota joins at least a dozen other US states who have introduced strict abortion restrictions. Those restrictions include bans on terminating pregnancies after a certain period of gestation, ranging from six to 20 weeks.

North Dakota's new law is designed to take effect immediately, but last month the state's Supreme Court ruled an abortion ban will remain blocked while a lawsuit over its constitutionality proceeds. 

Supporters have said the measure protects all human life, while opponents contend it will have serious consequences for women and girls.

Abortion ban may have eroded support, Ohio Republicans fear

No abortion clinics left in the state

Republican Senator Janne Myrdal, of Edinburg, had sponsored the bill.

"North Dakota has always been pro-life and believed in valuing the moms and children both," she told the AP news agency in an interview. 

Democratic Representative Liz Conmy opposed the initiative, expressing hope that restrictions would one day be rolled back.

"I don't think women in North Dakota are going to accept this, and there will be action in the future to get our rights back," Conmy said.

"Our Legislature is overwhelmingly pro-pregnancy, but I think women in the state would like to make their own decisions," she said.

North Dakota no longer has any abortion clinics. The state's only facility, the Red River Women's Clinic, closed its doors last summer and moved operations across the border to Minnesota, where abortion laws are much less strict.

The clinic's owner is currently pursuing a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of North Dakota's previous abortion ban.

tg/dj (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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