North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple [official website] on Tuesday signed [press release] three laws, HB 1305, HB 1456 and SB 2305 [materials], which impose the nation's most severe restrictions on abortion. These new laws, respectively, ban abortion [JURIST report] for the purpose of gender selection or genetic abnormalities, ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, and require that any physician performing an abortion have admitting and staff privileges at a nearby hospital. The ban on abortion after detection of a fetal heartbeat effectively prohibits abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, and is in opposition to Roe v. Wade, which allows abortions until the fetus is viable, at 22 to 24 weeks. Dalrymple acknowledged [NYT report] that the purpose of this specific law was to invite the Supreme Court to address the specific boundary created by Roe v. Wade, though he could not guarantee what the outcome of such a case would be. Pro-choice advocacy groups have responded promising challenges to this legislation, and North Dakota's only abortion clinic has stated [official website] that it is open, accepting appointments, and performing legal abortions. The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) [advocacy website] condemned the new legislation [press release] and promised to file a challenge to the ban on abortion after detection of a fetal heartbeat. The North Dakota legislature will be considering further legislation aimed at abortion in the upcoming weeks, including a law which would define life as starting at conception. The laws signed today will take effect on August 1 [Huffington Post Report] unless there is further intervention.
A number of states have passed restrictive abortion bills recently. Earlier this month the Arkansas legislature voted to override [JURIST report] Governor Mike Beebe's recent veto of the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act [Act 301, PDF], which bans abortions "of an unborn human individual whose heartbeat has been detected ... and is twelve (12) weeks or greater gestation." Days earlier Arkansas lawmakers voted to override the governor's veto [JURIST reports] of the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act [HB 1037, PDF] which bans most abortions in the state 20 weeks after conception. That law made Arkansas the eighth US state to ban or restrict abortions after 20 weeks. Similar laws restricting reproductive rights [JURIST backgrounder] are currently facing legal challenges in Arizona and Georgia [JURIST reports].