It looks like Arkansas just lost its title as the state with the country's most restrictive abortion ban. On Tuesday, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) signed into law a bill that would outlaw abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy.
What does that mean for North Dakota?
It will be very, very difficult to get an abortion. As Bloomberg points out, "At six weeks, a fetus is typically smaller than a dime and many women don't yet know they're pregnant." There are exceptions if the mother's life is at stake, but none if the pregnancy is due to incest or rape.
Dalrymple also signed a bill that restricts abortions based on genetic abnormalities or gender. The Center for Reproductive Rights has already said it will file a lawsuit to overturn the restrictions, prompting Dalrymple to urge North Dakota lawmakers to "appropriate money to a litigation fund for the state attorney general to defend against any possible challenges to the law."
Even if a woman found out she was pregnant right away, there is only one place in North Dakota that performs legal abortions: The Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo. The New York Times reports on the challenges the clinic has faced in the past, and how it views the latest restrictions:
Previously approved abortion measures requiring the state's lone provider here to do things like post new signs, fill out more paperwork, distribute literature, and offer ultrasounds were seen as burdensome but manageable.
"In the past it's been, 'We're going to try and make it more difficult, more hoops, more obstacles for women to have to jump through or jump over,'" said Tammi Kromenaker, the director of Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo... "But this is specifically, "Let's ban abortion. Let's do it. Let's challenge Roe v. Wade. Let's end abortion in North Dakota." [New York Times]
Thanks to another bill signed by Dalrymple, even the state's one clinic might not be able to perform abortions for long. The bill, according to The Jamestown Sun, would "require a physician performing an abortion to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility."
Why is that a problem? Because to get admitting privileges, the law requires that a doctor transfer at least 10 patients from the clinic to one of the two eligible local hospitals every year. As Kromenaker tells RH Reality Check:
I've had one time that I've had to admit a patient in the last ten years. We are very selective about the physicians we hire for our clinic, because we know we are a target... I would never employ a doctor who had to admit ten patients a year. That would mean they were a terrible doctor. [RH Reality Check]
Ultimately, the six-week abortion ban will face a tough challenge in the courts. But until a judge steps in, women in North Dakota who want an abortion may find that they don't have much choice in the matter.
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