(this post originally appeared on Planned Parenthood Advocate )
North Dakota Public Affairs Manager
Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund
After months of speculation North Dakota Governor John Hoeven finally announced his intentions to run for the U.S. Senate. His announcement came of the heels of Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan announcement he would not seek re-election to his seat in November. This unexpected development sent shock waves through the progressive movement in North Dakota. Senator Dorgan served the people of North Dakota in the United States Congress for three decades. His leadership on four standing committees, most notably Chairman of the Indian Affairs committee, will be a significant loss for North Dakota.
The announcement by Governor Hoeven to run for Dorgan’s seat should put supporters of reproductive health care and freedom on high alert. Governor Hoeven’s public statement on access to abortion care is only in cases of rape, incest or maternal life. Shockingly, in 2007 Governor Hoeven took his anti-choice stand to an unforeseen level when he signed into law an abortion ban known as a “trigger ban” . What this means is an abortion ban will go into effect in the state of North Dakota upon “recommendation of the attorney general to the legislative council that it is reasonably probable that this Act would be upheld as constitutional”. To make matters worse, of the four states with trigger bans, North Dakota’s is the most extreme because it:
• requires the physician to claim an affirmative defense that the abortion was necessary to protect the woman’s life, or in cases or rape or incest
• doesn’t allow a woman to terminate if she is experiencing a high-risk pregnancy
• doesn’t allow women to terminate even if conditions in pregnancy make it impossible for a fetus to survive outside the womb
This law would restrict a doctor’s ability to treat a patient and do what is necessary to save the life of a woman. If a doctor is prosecuted for performing an abortion, they must prove that the woman’s life was in danger or that the pregnancy was a result of ‘sexual imposition.’ This intrusion by the government upon the doctor patient relationship does nothing to prevent the need for abortion, but rather sets up more roadblocks for women seeking safe, legal abortion care and attempts to criminalize the doctors providing it.
The painful irony is just one month after signing the nations most extreme ‘Trigger Ban on Abortion’ Governor Hoeven declared it “Women’s Health week” in the state of North Dakota!!