North Dakota Republicans Pass Anti-Abortion Measures In Senate

Supporters of Red River Clinic in Fargo, ND demonstrate.

Anti-abortion protesters are met by counter-demonstrators showing their support for the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, ND. Photo from

There is currently one clinic in North Dakota that provides abortion services to women, and Republicans in the state are inching ever closer to shutting it down permanently. On Monday, North Dakota Republicans successfully pushed a pair of anti-abortion bills through the state senate that would ban abortion after 20 weeks and would declare a fertilized egg a human being.

SB 2368 passed by a vote of 30-17 and bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy even if a woman or girl becomes pregnant through rape or incest. The only exception in the bill is for when the life of the pregnant woman is in danger. The bill also declares that a fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks of pregnancy and would charge doctors with a felony if they perform an abortion after that time period.

SB 2303 serves as basically a personhood bill that declares that a fertilized egg is a human being, and bans the destruction of human embryos.

According to the Bismarck Tribune:

“Sen. Spencer Berry, R-Fargo, said much of the language of SB2368 is already found in the state’s Abortion Control Act. He told lawmakers that scientific evidence shows that an unborn child can feel pain at approximately 20 weeks, possibly earlier.”

This drew a response from Democratic Senator Carolyn Nelson who stated that while she personally “doesn’t like abortion,” it’s not up to lawmakers to make a decision that should rightfully be made only by the woman and her physician. Nelson also fought back against Republican claims that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks of pregnancy. And she did it by using science, which has been a subject conservatives spend most of their time denying. Nelson quoted the Journal of the American Medical Association, which states that fetal pain is unlikely to occur before the third trimester. According to the article:

“Pain perception requires conscious recognition or awareness of a noxious stimulus. Neither withdrawal reflexes nor hormonal stress responses to invasive procedures prove the existence of fetal pain, because they can be elicited by nonpainful stimuli and occur without conscious cortical processing. Fetal awareness of noxious stimuli requires functional thalamocortical connections. Thalamocortical fibers begin appearing between 23 to 30 weeks’ gestational age, while electroencephalography suggests the capacity for functional pain perception in preterm neonates probably does not exist before 29 or 30 weeks.”

In conclusion, the JAMA states that “Evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.”

According to The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Republicans have already passed anti-abortion bills in both the House and Senate. One bill bans abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected. Another bill bans abortion based on genetic defect, which means if the fetus will be born with a debilitating or painful genetic disorder that will make it suffer, the parents will be powerless to make the decision to end the pregnancy. Such defects can also be expensive to deal with so poor women would be especially affected by the law. The third bill “would require a doctor who performs abortions to be an OB-GYN with hospital-admitting privileges,” which is similar to a bill in Mississippi designed to force the closure of that state’s only remaining abortion clinic.

Clearly, Republicans in North Dakota are seeking to ban abortion. Several bills have been passed in the House and in the Senate in an effort to force women to remain pregnant against their will. The GOP is making this effort despite the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling that makes abortion legal up to the third trimester, and they are using an excuse that science doesn’t support to advance their agenda. It is unfortunate to say, but it seems the days women have to control their own bodies and make their own reproductive decisions are numbered and if nothing is done to turn the tide 2013 could be known as the year in which “small government” stripped women of their freedom in North Dakota and elsewhere across America.