Arkansas had better enjoy its time in the spotlight as the state with the earliest abortion ban in the country. As of next week, North Dakota will likely have it beat.
Arkansas’s “heartbeat” ban was modified to begin at 12 weeks of pregnancy in order to force it through the legislature for approval. No such machinations were necessary in North Dakota, where anti-choice legislators eager to enact any restriction they could find chose to propose a straight ban that would make abortion illegal at the point that an embryonic heart beat can be detected. That would be around six weeks or even earlier via vaginal ultrasound, and less than two weeks after a woman has missed her period.
For any woman, trying to verify a pregnancy, set up an appointment, and jump through any of the hoops necessary to obtain an abortion in less than two weeks after a missed period would be a hardship. But for the women of North Dakota, where the sole clinic offering abortions is on the east end of the state, straddling the Minnesota border, it would be virtually impossible. And that’s just what politicians are hoping for. This session already involves, among other things, bills that would ban “abortion” at conception (even though you can’t have an abortion before you are pregnant), as well as some forms of birth control.
The legislature has also passed a “heartbeat” ban, as well as bans on abortions for reasons of “sex selection” and fetal anomalies, both of which now head to Governor Jack Dalrymple for signature. He will have three legislative days to approve or veto the bills, but has already indicated he is likely to sign.
“Today, the North Dakota legislature voted to become the first state in the nation to ban most abortions. We urge the governor to veto this dangerous ban and to take this complex and deeply personal decision out of the hands of politicians, and put it back in the hands of a woman, her family and her doctor where it belongs,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in an email release. “It is time lawmakers put a stop to extreme restrictions like these and the one recently passed by the Arkansas legislature. In America, no woman, no matter where she lives, should be denied the ability to make this deeply personal decision.”
Both groups have noted the unconstitutional nature of the Arkansas ban at 12 weeks and the likelihood of a legal challenge before the bill goes into effect in that state. There is little doubt that they will be looking to block the North Dakota law from going into effect as well if the governor chooses not to veto.