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And Now North Dakota

March 26, 2013

Forget about Arkansas’s 12 week ban.  North Dakota just one-upped them when Governor Jack Dalrymple signed into law the most extreme abortion ban in the country.  North Dakota now bans abortion as early as six weeks. 

And the North Dakota State Legislature passed a fetal personhood amendment last Friday – it will be on the 2014 state ballot for voters to approve or deny.

It’s not even these provisions that may put the only abortion provider in the state out of business – Governor Dalrymple may have signed another bill into law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.  What’s the problem?  The only abortion provider in the state is being told by the closest hospital that it is too safe to need admitting privileges.  Yes, you read that right: the local abortion provider is too safe to warrant admitting privileges at the local hospital.

Sadly, North Dakota is just fitting the larger picture on reproductive health right now.  What we’re seeing in states across the country is a whole new level of extremism on women’s health and rights.  I’m talking about an extraordinary number of extreme bills – just in 2012 to date, 300 bills have been introduced in 42 states that would limit sexual and reproductive health services and education.  These bills show a complete disregard for women, for doctors, and more broadly, for healthy human sexuality.  These bills represent a concerted effort to take away women’s access to safe and legal abortion, to birth control, and to basic health care services and information.  Yes, information: one of the bills passed in (you guessed it) North Dakota hasn’t made it to the Governor’s desk yet because they want to add a provision that would take away funding for a sex ed program for at-risk teens.  Because it makes sense to add that to a 20-week abortion ban bill.  Wait, why do they need that bill, they just banned abortions at 6 weeks…

Sometimes I get the feeling that opponents of safe, legal abortion are just throwing everything out there to see what sticks.

Perhaps that’s what they have to do.  After all, Mississippi is the reddest state in the nation and a personhood ballot initiative there was defeated by 16 percentage points in 2011.  In Texas, the federal government has essentially given up on funding family planning through the state and will, and will instead give the money directly to clinics who have committed to providing family planning care.  And Arkansans are fighting back against a legislature seeking to overturn Roe v Wade.  And, we know these outrageous attacks are bad politics and bad policy.  The American public does not support these extreme restrictions on access to health care, and the Constitution does not permit them.  Much like marriage equality, access to health care should not be different from state to state.  Women’s rights should not be different from state to state.  Your rights and my rights should not depend on what zip code we live in. (Which reminds me: I am loving that my personal Facebook feed is totally red to support marriage equality… because your rights should not depend on your zip code.)


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