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Stenehjem should refuse to appeal decision on state's abortion law

April 17, 2014 - Andrea Johnson
It will be a real pity if State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem decides to throw more money down the rat-hole to defend North Dakota's unconstitutional abortion law.

The misguided law passed by the state legislature in 2013 would have banned most abortions in the state after six weeks, after which a fetal heartbeat can be detected. It was one of several anti-abortion laws passed by the legislature, most of which are probably also unconstitutional and most of which are costing the state a lot of money to defend.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland struck down the latest law this week. "The controversy over a woman's right to choose to have an abortion will never end. The issue is undoubtedly one of the most divisive of social issues. The United States Supreme Court will eventually weigh in on this emotionally-fraught issue but, until that occurs, this Court is obligated to uphold existing Supreme Court precedent," wrote Hovland. Stenehjem's office is apparently still deciding whether to appeal, even though he acknowledged that Hovland's ruling was hardly unexpected.

Mind you, it's not that I approve of abortion or that it would break my heart if more restrictions were placed upon the practice, though you will never find me outside an abortion clinic protesting.

I think banning abortion outright would be a mistake. There are circumstances under which abortion is necessary though regrettable, such as when the procedure saves the life or mental or physical health of the mother. It's neither fair nor moral to expect a woman to sacrifice her life or her sanity by carrying a dangerous pregnancy to term. Our country's laws allow for killing in self defense; that is why I find abortion for those reasons morally justifiable. Banning abortion after the sixth week would essentially ban all abortions in the state, including those that need to be done to preserve the life or health of the mother.

From a practical standpoint, this sort of ban before the point of viability is flatly unconstitutional. Everyone probably knows it, too, from Stenehjem to Governor Dalrymple to the state senators and representatives who voted for the legislation. Still, the Legislature insists on wasting money on a hopeless cause. They would do more good by investing those dollars into programs that would help women and children with housing and child care and by investing in social service programs that can help families in crisis. Many abortions could probably be prevented if more women could afford to raise their children or if they had more places to turn when their families are in trouble. I want our leaders to spend our money more productively.

Stenehjem should refuse to appeal this decision.


Article Comments

Apr-26-14 7:34 PM

yea they can poor money into this, but what are we getting out of this oil money, nothing but higher prices


Apr-20-14 9:01 PM

Happy Spring Equinox!


Apr-20-14 4:29 PM

Laws can be changed.


Apr-20-14 4:15 PM

PJ16 I think that is pretty cool, the mind is the biggest and best playground. Kind of nice to be alive isn't it. Happy Easter!


Apr-20-14 11:34 AM

Frankly, my mystic adventures with astrology and fortune telling haven't always proven successful, but that may just be a reflection of my lack of faith.

The Ouija works in mysterious ways.

I am certain of this: I have no say in what others can or cannot do with the mind, body and spirit they manifest.


Apr-20-14 9:36 AM

PJ16 how does that work shaping your personal views by astrology and fortune telling?

I'm not making fun of you I'm just curious in case I want to try it too.


Apr-20-14 8:49 AM

Actually, Nancy swore by astrology and claimed the fortune telling was a legit practice.


Apr-20-14 8:06 AM

PJ16 are you Ronald Reagan?? He always left allot of extra thinking space in his brain.


Apr-20-14 12:44 AM

My personal views are shaped by astrology and fortune telling. Someone else may worship Satan.

So what?

None of that has anything to do with the law.


Apr-19-14 2:02 PM

Yes, millions of men and women in this country are indeed Christians. This country's legal system and its culture were both profoundly impacted by a Judeo-Christian world view that has its effect even when citizens aren't particularly religious. Those ethics continue to have an impact on the laws that are passed and undoubtedly will continue to impact judicial decisions. I've stumbled across pro-life atheists who made arguments against abortion based on the belief that life begins at conception too. It's not solely a Christian argument.

Based on some of the comments I've heard and the polls I've seen, the majority of Americans are probably about where I'm at. They don't want abortion banned outright but they want more restrictions on it. My personal views are shaped by the Catholic view of the culture of life. They come from the same place as my opposition to the death penalty.


Apr-19-14 12:54 PM


And, this points to another outrageous reality: millions of women still buy into this antiquated, patriarchal, sexist, so-called "Christian" nonsense.

If and when they're challenged about the basic fairness and bizarre hypocrisy -- many otherwise normal, intelligent grown women will say, "It's in the Bible."


Apr-19-14 10:32 AM

The domain of law has never been based in only "facts and figures," but also in what a society considers to be moral.

Hammurabi's Code, anyone? Golden Rule, anyone?

To atheists, any mention of faith is abhorrent. To non-atheists, any mention of non-faith is "que sera sera."


Apr-19-14 7:42 AM

Andrea have you noticed all but one ND adoption clinic is sponsored by a Church or Religious organization? Maybe that is divine intervention to get those babies somewhere they will be loved and respected.


Apr-18-14 6:33 PM

Laws are made by man and both laws and politics are influenced by the religious views of man. At present, abortion before the second trimester has been deemed legal and constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.


Apr-18-14 5:44 PM

When folks start offering up what they believe their god to believe, we've left the domain of law, which is predicated on facts and figures -- not faith, not fantasy.


Apr-18-14 4:28 PM

I don't feel qualified to tell if someone is actually suicidal or just kinda feels bad about being pregnant. Are you? Do you feel willing to take the risk of some poor woman taking her own life because she can't bear to be pregnant? Presumably, if the day ever comes when there are more restrictions in effect, a psychiatrist or counselor or medical doctor could be required to sign off on the woman's condition.


Apr-18-14 1:08 PM

There are probably a lot of reasons for this too. Doctors are too apt to give C-sections, which increases the risk to the mother. The C-section rate is even higher than it was in the 1990s when I was writing about health care. There are more high risk pregnancies,which increases the risk to the mother and child. Older mothers, obese mothers, mothers with health problems are all likely to have a higher mortality rate. It would be interesting to see the risk to mothers who have had fertility treatment. The high cost of health care also means some poorer women are less likely to see an OB during the pregnancy.


Apr-18-14 1:00 PM

Some of those deaths may be due to complications of pregnancy rather than death in childbirth. I'm not sure if they're counting abortion deaths in all those numbers or not. Either way, pregnancy can still be a risky endeavor.


Apr-18-14 12:58 PM

The maternal mortality rate has also doubled here in the last 25 years. We're in pretty sad shape compared with Canada, where the maternal death rate is 12 per 100,000. Not surprisingly, race and class have a lot to do with who dies here. Black mothers have a 33 per 100,000 mortality rate; white mothers have an 11 per 100,000 mortality rate.


Apr-18-14 12:47 PM

In the United States, 21 women died for every 100,000 births in 2010. There were nearly 4 million births in the U.S. In 2012. That would put the maternal death toll at roughly 819, allowing for some differences in the stats from year to year. There were about 1.06 million abortions performed in 2011 nationwide; In 2009, eight women died from having a legal abortion, according to the CDC. The death toll due to legal abortion was considerably lower.


Apr-18-14 12:35 PM

Agencies is so impersonal, clinics sounds better when dealing in human mental and physical health. Dr's will be called Agents at the Health Agency. They will no longer swear to do their personal best but instead will take oath to follow the Agency regulations. Is that the future?


Apr-18-14 12:30 PM

Wow. Carrying a baby to term is not as safe as an abortion? I'd need a source for this.

There are plenty of unintended consequences associated with abortion, because of its intention and the methods used to obtain that end: saline solutions, dilation & curettage, inducing premature contractions with drugs to expel the fetus, etc.

The human body generally trends toward preserving life rather than getting rid of life. Miscarriages happen because something is wrong, not because everything is operating well.


Apr-18-14 12:17 PM

As done by abortion clinics, they're generally safer than carrying a pregnancy to term. And there are "adoption clinics" called adoption agencies.


Apr-18-14 11:57 AM

Let's open Adoption Clinics and send medical procedures to the Hospitals. You would think an abortion with all the risks would rate a little higher than an ingrown toenail.


Apr-18-14 11:51 AM

== Continued == I think you can agree that a fetus is a potential life or a life without automatically agreeing that abortion must be banned in all cases. It's a balancing act between the life of the mother and of the child. A woman whose life or health is at risk ought to have the right to preserve her life even if it means choosing herself over the unborn child.

I remember the ads that a maternity home in the eastern part of the state ran a few months back, saying "There may be unwanted pregnancies but there are no unwanted children." It struck me as effective because it spoke to both mother and father about stepping up and being responsible and raising their child. Hopefully those ads saved a few lives. They're also more effective than abortion bans because they provide practical help instead of condemnation for women in crisis.


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