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North Dakota legislature overwhelmingly passes bill to clear up language in its “trigger” bill and Heartbeat Bill

by | Apr 20, 2023

Sent to governor for his signature

By Dave Andrusko

Having passed the House and Senate by huge margins, a bill  “to clear up language” in the state’s 2007 trigger ban and the 2013 ‘Heartbeat Bill’ in the wake of last year’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe is on its way to North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

Authored by Sen. Janne Myrdal, Senate Bill 2150 has been sent to the governor’s desk after the Senate passed the bill 42-5 on Wednesday. On Monday, the state House of Representatives passed the bill 76-14. The numbers in the House and Senate are sufficient to override a veto.

 Rep. Dan Ruby said “We have a chance to clean up language in our law, make some improvements to it, adjust to it due to the nature of what we did before the overturning of Roe v. Wade to what is being done now.”

In 2007, North Dakota lawmakers passed a bill protecting unborn children from abortion in the state within 30 days if the Supreme Court were to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

The Supreme Court’s Dobbs June 24, 2022 decision “triggered North Dakota’s ban, which prohibits virtually all abortions but is temporarily blocked in state district court amid a lawsuit from the state’s sole abortion provider,” wrote Jack Dura of The Bismarck Tribune.

The Red River Women’s Clinic [RRWC], which moved from Fargo to neighboring Moorhead, Minnesota, last year, sued Wrigley in July to prevent the protective law from taking effect. The lawsuit asserts that the state’s constitution grants the right to abortion.

The North Dakota Supreme Court seemed to agree. On March 16,  the justices rejected Attorney General Drew Wrigley’s request to remove a preliminary injunction issued by Judge Bruce Romanick  that prevented the state’s trigger law from taking effect.

AG Wrigley said that Judge Romanick made a mistake when he said there’s not a “clear and obvious” answer on whether the state Constitution prohibits abortion and that therefore the case should go forward, according to the Associated Press’s Dave Kolpack. “In order to determine that the outcome favors the clinic Romanick would have to first find that a constitutional right to abortion existed, Wrigley said.”

The state’s highest court saw it otherwise. Writing for himself and  three other justices, Chief Justice Jon Jensen held that “While the regulation of abortion is within the authority of the legislature under the North Dakota Constitution, RRWC [Red River Women’s Clinic] has demonstrated likely success on the merits that there is a fundamental right to an abortion in the limited instances of life-saving and health-preserving circumstances, and the statute is not narrowly tailored to satisfy strict scrutiny.”

In a 21 page long decision,  Justice  Jensen went on to write that “The North Dakota Constitution guarantees North Dakota citizens the right to enjoy and defend life and the right to pursue and obtain safety, which necessarily includes a pregnant woman has a fundamental right to obtain an abortion to preserve her life or her health.”

Myrdal’s bill “would allow for treatment of ectopic pregnancies, a dangerous, nonviable scenario in which a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, and molar pregnancies, a nonviable, rare complication involving a tumor forming in the uterus,” Dura wrote.

Categories: State Legislation
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