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Shame on North Dakota Legislature

March 18, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
North Dakota legislators chose last week to throw taxpayer money down the rat hole to defend likely unconstitutional legislation that severely restricts abortion.

If the governor signs it, the legislation essentially bans all abortions performed after six weeks gestation, before many women know they are pregnant, or whenever a fetal heartbeat can be detected as well as all abortions performed due to gender selection or due to a genetic defect, such as Down Syndrome. If signed into law, the legislation would give North Dakota the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

Not that they will ever be enforced. I predict that a lawyer for the Fargo Women's Clinic will be in court seeking an injunction on the day that Gov. Jack Dalrymple signs that bill and it will be easily granted.

Even most of the legislators who voted "yes" on this legislation knew darned well that what they want to do is unconstitutional. Some of the wiser among them probably also know that the best way to prevent abortions is not to outlaw them. A comprehensive sex education program, including information about birth control, where to obtain it and how to use it, beginning in middle school, might be a good start. The most effective sex education programs do not teach abstinence only; they teach that abstinence is the best choice for young people but recognize that some teens are going to have sex and need to know how to protect themselves from STDs and pregnancy. Depressingly, North Dakota mandates that sex education programs emphasize abstinence, despite the fact that statistics show that many North Dakota teenagers are sexually active by the time they graduate from high school.

A stronger social safety net would undoubtedly help women who are unexpectedly pregnant. Rental assistance and child care assistance might make the difference for a young mother who is weighing the cost of raising another child on a limited income. It might not prevent all abortions, but it would prevent a significant number of them, since financial difficulties are among the reasons women give for having abortions.

I, like the legislators, would like to see fewer abortions, but I am frustrated by their wrongheaded approach to this goal. The total cost of defending these misguided proposed laws can't be estimated, but it's fair to say that lawyers on both sides will be rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of all those billable hours and a possible trip to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The lawyers are the only ones who win here. The winners certainly aren't going to be North Dakota taxpayers. I am ashamed of our legislators. Gov. Jack Dalrymple should refuse to sign these bills into law.


Article Comments



Mar-20-13 3:54 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that there is a constitutional right to privacy, which legalized abortion. Based on what I know of constitutional law, most of the legislation the legislature has passed is likely to be ruled unconstitutional, albeit after an immediate injunction and a costly legal battle. Hence, it's a waste of time to play the "what if?" game. The laws will never be enforced; they'll just cost taxpayers money.

I've seen studies that give clear evidence that comprehensive sex education, access to birth control and a strong social safety net reduces abortions. Banning it outright leads to more back alley abortions. Presumably no one is in favor of desperate young women dying that way.

We do not live in a theocracy, so whether Catholicism coincides with pragmatism is irrelevant. I was raised Catholic; I also believe in the Catholic teaching regarding primacy of one's conscience. This is what my conscience tells me.


Mar-20-13 3:19 PM

Good now we're getting somewhere. You, in fact, could care less about constitutional values as much as common sense law. So let's not beat our chest about contitutional rights and wrongs when you are a "pragmatist and I am in favor of what actually will work". How are you so confident that and these laws wouldn't stop abortion to an extent? Could the same not be said about life penalties and death sentences for murder? People will still kill no matter the laws restricting them just like abortions will continue. If the majority of the constituents agree is it wrong? Or are you so enlightened that we should write law according to Andrea? Does pragmatism coincide with Catholicism? I don't think they do!


Mar-20-13 11:24 AM

I'm a pragmatist and I am in favor of what actually will work, not what ideologues want to push for the sake of looking good with their constituents. This proposed legislation will be slapped down with an injunction so fast the legislators' heads will spin. Then the state will be forced to pay costly legal bills to defend legislation that everyone knew was unconstitutional when they approved it. It will also NOT stop abortion. Comprehensive sex ed. programs, assistance for women in crisis, etc. are better ways to do that. There are studies somewhere that show they cut down on unplanned pregnancies and, I would assume, make it easier for women to keep babies if they're on the fence.

My reasoning is much the same on prostitution. Outlawing it doesn't prevent it and they make outrageous abuses by pimps and johns of vulnerable women and girls possible. If it's going to exist anyway, I'd rather see it legalized, strictly regulated, and behavior outside the bounds of those laws punished.


Mar-20-13 11:06 AM

I agree that this Supreme Court will never overturn Roe, but there may come a day. You say they're wasting your money. Maybe the majority of North Dakotans would disagree? Your money, broken down to percentages, is a very small portion. I would rather see tax dollars spent on kids getting milk and a snack than litigation... I do question your beliefs a little when you are pro-prostitution and (you say your not but...) pro-abortion. If this state was left to your ideologies we'd be in the same mess as California and Nevada.


Mar-20-13 9:21 AM

At the moment all I see is a bunch of people tilting at windmills and wasting my money. This court is highly unlikely to overturn Roe v. Wade. I they do, it will just result in more unsafe abortions and suffering for the most vulnerable.

I oppose abortion, I think it is a sin but sometimes might qualify as self defense. I also think there are better ways to prevent it than outlawing it, starting with better sex education and more assistance for women in crisis.


Mar-20-13 8:43 AM

It's no big surprise that our state(legislature) is vastly conservative in their views. So it should come as no surprise that something like this would come about. What if, sometimes I like to live in the land of what if, these laws do make it to the Supreme Court and DO, in some way, change Roe V Wade? Would you still be of the opinion that it was wasteful? Someday there may be a conservative majority in the Supreme Court and laws like this may be brought to them and enacted. Would you rightously stand behind them as you do now because they are CONSTITUTIONAL?


Mar-20-13 8:32 AM

@Andrea I disagree. For too long proponents of abortion have used the "it's their bodies!" line. There are a few judicial scholars out there who think the Roe V Wade decision was ramrodded through on political pressure and not "Judicial prudence". Justices Byron R. White and William H. Rehnquist wrote emphatic dissenting opinions in this case. White wrote:

I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court's judgment. The Court simply fashions and announces a new constitutional right for pregnant women and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, invests that right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes. The upshot is that the people and the legislatures of the 50 States are constitutionally disentitled to weigh the relative importance of the continued existence and development of the fetus, on the one hand, against a spectrum of possible impacts on the woman, on the other hand.


Mar-20-13 8:04 AM

Ss I've said in the past, I think it would make more sense to legalize prostitution, regulate it heavily -- licensing fees, required health checks, strict monitoring to make sure no one involved is underage and no illegal drugs are involved, auditing to make sure the women and men are paid fairly, requirements for adequate security to protect them from potentially dangerous clients, etc. Licensing fees could be used for programs to help with enforcement and to help the women pay for health care. Regulation would be more practical and protect more women who end up in prostitution and discourage some of the abuse you see now.

This has nothing to do with the state legislature's proposed legislation, which is unconstitutional, will not have the intended effect and will waste taxpayer money.


Mar-19-13 11:52 PM

An argument can even be made that prostitution could reduce abortions due to the fact that there would be a certain percentage of men who would use this service. If you can find in the constitution where it states prostitution is illegal then I will redact my previous comments. If not then I can only assume you are pro prostitution since you are pro abortion, no?


Mar-19-13 11:44 PM

*CONTINUED delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Amendment XIII, Section 1: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." A central issue is whether a person owns his or her body. For the government or state to own our bodies would be slavery. But the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery. Clearly, this means that we as individuals own our bodies, not the state or government.


Mar-19-13 11:43 PM

What are your thoughts, Andrea, on prostitution? Is it not also a womens body to do what she pleases with? As far as the constitution regarding prostitution... Prostitution is never mentioned in the Constitution. I believe the following stipulations of the Constitution are relevant here:

Article I, Section 10: "No State shall pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts." Article VI: "This Constitution, and the laws of the United States... shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby; anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding... All executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this Constitution." Amendment IX: "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Amendment X: "The powers not


Mar-19-13 11:38 PM

They are defending the unborn if you go by Merriam-Websters definition: DEFEND transitive verb


a: to drive danger or attack away from <defend our shores>

b (1): to maintain or support in the face of argument or hostile criticism <defend a theory> (2): to prove (as a doctoral thesis) valid by answering questions in an oral exam

c: to attempt to prevent an opponent from scoring at <elects to defend the south goal>


archaic: prevent, forbid


: to act as attorney for


: to deny or oppose the right of a plaintiff in regard to (a suit or a wrong charged) : contest


: to retain or seek to retain (as a title or position) against a challenge in a contest


Mar-19-13 8:15 PM

However, the Legislature's actions will NOT defend unborn children. They will not prevent a single abortion, since the law is unconstitutional and an injunction will likely be granted within hours of its being signed by the governor. It will cost the state dearly to fight the case and it will probably be thrown out by a lower court or struck down by the Supreme Court. All of the money that our legislators are wasting could have gone to programs that actually do stand a fighting chance of helping women in crisis situations and preventing them from getting abortions.

I object to the wasted money and time, some of which are MY tax dollars as well as yours, and to the lack of attention to programs that benefit the poor and the needy.


Mar-19-13 6:26 PM

"Some say there are fewer abortions when democrats rule because they do more for womens health, low income moms and single moms."

I haven't tracked who "some" are to be certain of the veracity of their info. Be that as it may, I am not male, but female. I don't consider a defense of unborn children as "female bashing." There's no logic in that statement unless you're irrefutably pro-abortion.


Mar-19-13 3:32 PM

"...enough oil surplus money at their disposal to waste..."

This, after voting down the school milk bill last month because it was considered too expensive. One would think concern for "little lives" wouldn't be limited to the funiculus umbilicalis...


Mar-19-13 11:21 AM

Outlawing something doesn't stop it from happening. In the case of abortion, outlawing it will likely lead to more unsafe abortions and endanger the lives of women as well. The best way to prevent abortions is to direct more time and effort to preventing the root causes of abortion: unplanned pregnancies, instability in finances and relationships, etc.

This proposed legislation appears to make no exception in cases of rape or incest and, as previously mentioned, the laws also threaten in vitro fertilization which many couples have relied upon to conceive a child in cases of infertility. It's madness, in other words, and it infuriates me that our legislators feel there's enough oil surplus money at their disposal to waste on this sort of nonsense. I didn't know they had that much time on their hands, either.


Mar-19-13 7:00 AM

It's almost illegal to drink and smoke we just as well outlaw abortion too, after all it also takes lives. The MADD Moms and all the people who are so concerned about drinking fatalities and smoking deaths seem pretty quiet when it comes to protecting these little lives.


Mar-18-13 11:05 PM

Andrea - Why don't you bring up the personhood bill being discussed, which passed the senate?? Maybe more people would get p**sed off if they found out our state is trying to ban in vitro, and birth control


Mar-18-13 3:23 PM

Thank you Andrea!!! For posting this to your blog...I'm glad to see someone on MDN is using common sense!!


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