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ND Women’s Network eyes special session

Abortion, childcare among potential legislative issues

Jill Schramm/MDN Sydney Bauer, Alyssa Lee and Thalia Wood, left to right, discuss advocacy efforts at an event of the North Dakota Women’s Network in Oak Park Saturday.

A mirrored version of a Texas abortion law will have strong opposition from the North Dakota Women’s Network if introduced during the state’s special session in November.

Jynette Larshus, a local member of the network’s advisory committee, listed a potential copycat bill as a priority focus of the organization in speaking at a N.D. Women’s Network event in Minot’s Oak Park Saturday.

The recent Texas law bans abortions after six weeks gestation. It also allows individuals to sue anyone who facilitates an abortion — from a family member to a taxi driver delivering a customer — with the potential to personally collect $10,000.

“Those implications are not just about preventing abortions. Those implications are for healthcare,” Larshus said, noting the lack of exceptions for ectopic pregnancies or medical assistance in terminating a pregnancy during an active miscarriage. “These are family health decisions that are being taken away.”

N.D. Women’s Network is prepared to challenge similar legislation in North Dakota, Larshus said. The main mission of North Dakota Women’s Network is to increase women’s voices in the political process through activism, voting and running for office, she said.

“We very much believe that when you get more diverse voices into the democratic process, it becomes better,” she told the group gathered at Saturday’s event.

Planned Parenthood, a partner of N.D. Women’s Network, was a joint sponsor of the Minot event and women’s marches on Saturday in Bismarck and Fargo.

N.D. Women’s Network also plans to advocate legislatively for paid family leave and for adequate and affordable childcare, Larshus said.

“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on childcare and childcare options for people,” she said. Based on calculations of the number of working mothers and the number of available childcare slots, Ward County is short by more than 2,000 slots, she said.

“COVID-19 has illustrated how important childcare is. We have massive labor shortages and we have labor shortages in the occupations that are dominantly filled by women. If they don’t have childcare, they’re not going to go back to their jobs,” she said.

The special session in November will take up the spending of federal COVID-19 dollars, and childcare and paid family leave should be part of that discussion, Larshus said.

N.D. Women’s Network’s series of First Friday events will resume in November. Information about dates, locations, speakers and topics can be found on the North Dakota Women’s Network Facebook page.

Participants at the event also heard about the Youth Action Council, which provides high school students and college-aged individuals with resources and a platform for advocacy. Information about the council’s upcoming events can be found on the N.D. Women’s Network website at ndwomen.org.

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