BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota's House approved a measure Friday that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the disputed premise that at that point a fetus can feel pain.
It's another in a list of bills passed meant to challenge the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until viability, usually at 22 to 24 weeks. The Legislature is taking a multi-pronged approach that would make North Dakota the most restrictive state in the nation in which to get the procedure.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple already signed into law a measure that bans the practice when a heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy and before some women even know they're pregnant. He also signed two other measures this session — one banning abortions because a fetus has genetic defects such as Down syndrome, and another requiring a doctor who performs abortions to be a physician with hospital-admitting privileges.
The so-called "fetal pain" bill passed the House with a 60-32 vote. The bill, which was approved by the Senate 30-17 in February, now goes to the governor. Dalrymple, a Republican, has hinted that he will sign the "fetal pain" bill.
All of the measures would take effect Aug. 1, and are fueled in part by an attempt to close the state's sole abortion clinic in Fargo.
Abortion rights advocates say the laws are unconstitutional and have promised a legal fight that they say will be long, costly and unwinnable for the state.
Lawmakers have started building a war chest to defend against potential lawsuits. The Senate has unanimously supported a request by state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem for a $400,000 budget increase.
At least 10 states have passed bills banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy on the premise that a fetus can feel pain at that stage, but research is split on the theory.