North Dakota state senators overwhelmingly passed a bill that would ban abortion at all stages of pregnancy.
Narrow exceptions would be granted for rape and incest up to six weeks of pregnancy under the bill passed April 19. Abortions for certain medical emergencies are allowed at any stage of pregnancy.
The bill has passed the Senate and House with veto-proof majorities, so it could become law without Republican Gov. Doug Burgum’s approval. It would be one of the strictest abortion bans in the country.
Supporters said the bill would further the state’s mission to protect all human life — aged, unborn and everything in between — whereas opponents said these abortion restrictions would have dire consequences for women and girls.
“We talk about rape and incest, and those are horrific circumstances,” Republican Sen. Janne Myrdal, of Edinburg, said while speaking in support of the bill on the Senate floor. “We certainly want to encourage any child, any woman, that experiences any of this, to immediately go to medical care and get these things taken care of before there’s fertilization.”
Myrdal added that lawmakers should focus on catching perpetrators and boosting resources for rape kits in order to seek justice for victims, rather than fighting for abortion rights.
Republican Sen. Judy Lee, of West Fargo, said in opposition to the bill that she received an email a few weeks ago from a couple with two 10-year-old foster daughters who were victims of incest.
“No 10-year old girl, who neither has a body or a mind which is capable of dealing with a pregnancy, should be denied a reasonable conversation with a medical professional and her parents about whether or not that’s the right decision,” Lee said. “I am not in favor of abortion as a birth control means,” she added, “but these protections that exist are there for a reason.”
The bill passed with a 42-5 vote.
Last month, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled a state abortion ban will remain blocked while a lawsuit over its constitutionality proceeds.
The court is dealing with this controversy less than a year after its conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade and allowed more than a dozen states to effectively ban abortion.
This story has been updated to correct that the bill would ban abortion at all stages of pregnancy – with narrow exceptions for rape and incest up to six weeks of pregnancy.
Trisha Ahmed is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Trisha Ahmed on Twitter: @TrishaAhmed15