Steven Aden

On March 15, the North Dakota senate approved a bill that prevents abortions from being performed once a developing child’s heartbeat is detected in the mother’s womb.

This heartbeat can usually be heard “six to seven weeks into a pregnancy,” so it’s after that point that abortions will be prohibited in the state if Gov. Jack Dalrymple signs the bill.

Besides protecting life once a heartbeat is detected, North Dakota lawmakers passed a bill prohibiting “sex-selective abortions and abortions based on a diagnosis of genetic abnormality.”

Until this current pro-life push by North Dakota lawmakers, the most significant abortion ban in the country was the one passed in Arkansas on March 6 of this year. There, state lawmakers overrode a governor’s veto to ban abortions beyond 12 weeks.

After the North Dakota legislation passed the state senate, acting ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero labeled it “dangerous” and “extreme”:

Today, the North Dakota Legislature voted to become the first state in the nation to ban most abortions. We urge the governor to veto this dangerous ban and to take this complex and deeply personal decision out of the hands of politicians and put it back in the hands of a woman, her family and her doctor, where it belongs. It is time lawmakers put a stop to extreme restrictions like these and the one recently passed by the Arkansas Legislature.

Probably much to Romero’s dismay, North Dakota lawmakers have been hard at work on several pro-life bills throughout this year. In addition to protecting life after a heartbeat is detected and protecting life from being extinguished just because the baby isn’t the sex the parents prefer, they have also introduced “fetal pain” legislation that would protect pre-born life after 20 weeks and have introduced two pieces of “personhood” legislation—one of which “would put an amendment on the 2014 ballot that would declare [that] life at any stage of development must be recognized and protected and another that would amend the criminal code to include ‘personhood’ language.”

The honorable endgame is apparent—North Dakota legislators are determined to end abortions that stop a beating heart. However these bills fare before the activist federal judiciary in the inevitable court challenges, the message should be loud and clear to the Congress, the President, and especially the Supreme Court, which may soon be asked to consider whether abortion on demand is still viable forty years after Roe v. Wade.


Steven Aden

Steven H. Aden is senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom (www.alliancedefendingfreedom.org).