North Dakota introduces toughest abortion law in US

North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple file picture Governor Jack Dalrymple said the laws aimed to test the boundaries of Roe v Wade

Related Stories

North Dakota has banned abortion once a foetal heartbeat can be detected - as early as six weeks - in the most restrictive law of its kind in the US.

Governor Jack Dalrymple signed a second law banning abortions based on genetic abnormalities.

He approved a third law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have hospital-admitting privileges.

Correspondents say the laws are in part an effort to close the state's only abortion clinic, in the town of Fargo.

The measures, which take effect on 1 August, make no exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother.

Gov Dalrymple said: "Although the likelihood of this measure surviving a court challenge remains in question, this bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v Wade."

Legal challenge

In that landmark 1973 case, the US Supreme Court ruled abortion was legal until the foetus could survive outside the womb.

Abortion clinic file picture North Dakota's law comes weeks after Arkansas also tightened its abortion rules

The governor said that the court has allowed states to adopt stricter abortion measures, and has never before considered a measure like this one - leaving the constitutionality of the bills an "open question".

Gov Dalrymple added the state should put money aside to pay for legal challenges to the laws.

Under the North Dakota bills, women would not be prosecuted for having an abortion after a foetal heartbeat could be detected, but doctors could face five years in prison and a $5,000 (£3,300) penalty.

Pro-choice advocates vowed to challenge the legislation.

Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood, said: "This sweeping package of bills will not stand up to constitutional scrutiny.

"But as a result of North Dakota's leaders' disregard for women's health, the state will endure months and years of drawn-out litigation costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars."

In addition, North Dakota's Republican-dominated legislature last week set up a voter referendum for November 2014 which seeks to amend the state constitution to define life as beginning at conception.

The amendment would grant full legal protection to embryos and foetuses and could outlaw some forms of birth control, stem-cell research and possibly in vitro fertilisation.

Earlier in March, the Republican-controlled legislature in the state of Arkansas enacted tough abortion laws, banning the procedure after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Scientists generally agree that foetuses become "viable" or able to survive outside the womb at about 22-24 weeks.

More on This Story

Related Stories

More US & Canada stories


Features & Analysis

  • French luxury Tea House, Mariage Freres display of tea pots Tea for tu

    France falls back in love with tea - but don't expect a British cuppa

  • Woman in swimming pool Green stuff

    The element that makes a familiar smell when mixed with urine

  • People take part in an egg-cracking contest in the village of Mokrin, 120km (75 miles) north of Belgrade, Serbia on 20 April 2014In pictures

    Images from around the world as Christians mark Easter Sunday

  • Female model's bottom in leopard skin trousers as she walks up the catwalkBum deal

    Why budget buttock ops can be bad for your health

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • ITChild's play

    It's never been easier for small businesses to get their message out to the world


  • An aerial shot shows the Olympic Stadium, which is closed for repair works on its roof, in Rio de Janeiro March 28, 2014.Extra Time Watch

    Will Rio be ready in time to host the Olympics in 2016? The IOC president gives his verdict

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.