Minot Republican Representative Jeff Hoverson sponsored the bill that would charge abortion providers with murder.
“We need to stop murdering babies and listen to babies,” Hoverson said.
He’s joined by four other lawmakers, including Hazelton Republican Representative Jeff Magrum.
“As an adult I need to stand up for the most vulnerable, the little children,” Magrum said.
Their bill would make providing an abortion a class AA felony, punishable by life in prison. It would also criminalize anyone who “knowingly aids, abets, facilitates, solicits, or incites another person to commit an abortion.”
Planned Parenthood’s State Director of External Affairs Katie Christensen finds that language troubling.
“It feels very extreme, and it’s basically criminalizing health care,” Christensen said.
Fargo Democratic Representative Gretchen Dobervich says it could trigger expensive litigation if passed.
“It will end up going to the courts,” Dobervich said.
Hoverson says having the courts take a look at the law isn’t the intention, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing either, as conservatives now hold a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court, which means House Bill 1313 could pose a legal challenge to the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.
“That’d be great if it did, but actually I would rather have legislation that nullifies it,” Hoverson said. “This is a matter that the states need to start taking into their own hands, and if we have a movement of states, that’s a way better approach.”
Hoverson compared challenging the landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion, to states defying federal marijuana laws.
“The Supreme Court decision is simply a decision,” Hoverson said.
It’s not the first time the state has clashed in the courts when it comes to abortion-related legislation. In 2019, the American Medical Association filed suit in U.S. District Court against two laws passed last session, one of which would require doctors give patients information about how to “reverse” an abortion.
“In previous sessions, we’ve seen unconstitutional laws related to abortion pass,” Dobervich said. “It’s cost the taxpayers money for the Attorney General’s office to defend those bills and I feel like the bill probably has a good chance of passing again based on past history.”
Christensen says that money would be better spent helping those hurt by the pandemic.
“We’d basically be taking funding from North Dakota to deal with this bill in litigation when instead we could be using those resources to focus on other more immediate needs to focus on the pandemic,” Christensen said.
Asked whether Hoverson thinks the bill goes too far in charging providers with murder: “That’s best answered by a question — how is it not murder?” Hoverson said.
Hoverson said the Human Services Committee will take up the hearing early next week.