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Two more ND abortion laws challenged

An abortion rights group has filed a federal lawsuit against two of North Dakota’s new laws that restrict abortion.

Prairie Public's Dave Thompson has the story.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit in federal district court in Bismarck, challenging the constitutionality of a law – called the “fetal heartbeat” law – that would essentially prohibit abortion after a heartbeat is detected in the fetus, or approximately six weeks. The other law being challenged prohibits abortions for sex selection, or when a fetus has abnormalities.

“Both laws are unconstitutional because they prohibit abortions prior to viability,” said Center senior legal counsel Janet Crepps. “That is a legal principle that’s been clearly announced by the Supreme Court.”

The Center has asked the court for a temporary injunction – to prevent both laws from taking effect August First. Crepps says it’s essential that the fetal heartbeat law not take effect.

“If that happens, it’s going to immediately prohibit completely about 90 percent of the abortions in North Dakota,” said Crepps.

Abortion foes say they’re not surprised that the Center for Reproductive Rights is challenging the law.

“It’s only natural, because they make a lot of money off the abortion industry,” said Sen. Margaret Sitte (R-Bismarck). Sitte either sponsored or co-sponsored a number of the anti-abortion bills passed by the North Dakota Legislature. She says one of the purposes of the bills passed by the Legislature is to directly challenge the 1973 Roe versus Wade decision by the Supreme Court.

“Roe v. Wade was written before we had sonogram technology, before we knew what we do know now about life,” said Sitte. “So I think it is an excellent time.”

But Crepps says she doubts that the Supreme Court will use the North Dakota laws to overturn Roe.

“The legal concepts that we’re talking about here have been stated by the Supreme Court and reaffirmed by the Supreme Court,” said Crepps. “There’s no reasonable basis for the state to come in and say those decisions should be overturned.”

Two other abortion laws passed by the North Dakota legislature have already been challenged in the courts. They deal with banning abortion at 20 weeks – the so-called “fetal pain” bill – and requiring doctors who perform abortions to be admitted to a local hospital. North Dakota has one clinic that provides abortion services – in Fargo.

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