The North Dakota Senate on Friday approved banning abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, sending to the Governor for his signature the most stringent abortion restrictions in the United States.
The legislation would ban most abortions if a fetal heart beat can be detected. The fetal heart beat has been detected at six weeks in many pregnancies, according to medical authorities.
The measure has already passed the House, and will now be put in the hands of Governor Jack Dalrymple. The Governor generally opposes abortion but has not said whether he will sign the bill into law.
This is one of several abortion measures the legislature has looked at this session. The vote had little or no debate, and came after approval of another measure that would ban abortion in the case of genetic defects, like Down's Syndrome.
This same measure also banned abortions based on gender selection. Three other states also have banned abortions based on gender selection. Pennsylvania, Arizona and Oklahoma already have such laws.
Anti-abortion activists are saying that North Dakota's anti-abortion measures are nothing more than an attempt to close the state's one remaining abortion clinic, located in Fargo. They also say the fetal heartbeat bill is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.
A spokeswoman for the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion laws across the country, Elizabeth Nash said,
" This is just a tidal wave of abortion restrictions" in the U.S. We have seen efforts to ban abortion entirely, and those attempts have failed. Now they're moving toward banning abortions as early as possible."
Arizona's legislation banning abortions past the 18th week doesn't come close to North Dakota's legislation, but the Arizona bill beats all the states in starting the clock on a pregnancy at the woman’s last menstrual period, which could be two weeks before fertilization.
This means that a woman can be pregnant even before she has had a sexual encounter, according to the way the legislation reads. This is one piece of legislation that will probably be challenged in court.
Since 2010, 11 states have passed outright bans on abortions for women who have been pregnant for more than 20 weeks, and in many some cases earlier. It all started with Nebraska in 2010, adding five more states in 2011, and Arizona, Georgia and Louisiana in 2012. So far this year, we have seen Arkansas and now North Dakota added to the growing list.
In January we marked the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. Now it appears the fight for women's rights to end their pregnancy is not over. Could it be because Republicans have taken over so many state legislatures and governors' mansions across the country?
The GOP's gains have resulted in pro-lifers being given the opportunity to advance their agendas. The conservative platform of the Republican party has been the leading edge of the long-standing fight to end abortions all together, and the GOP has picked a good way to do it.