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ND governor signs fetal heartbeat law, calls constitutionality ‘an open question’

Posted Mar 27, 2013 7:04 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple acknowledges his state will face a legal fight over three new anti-abortion measures he signed into law on Tuesday.

One law bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy, report the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. Another bans abortions only for gender selection or genetic abnormalities. A third requires physicians who perform abortions to have staff privileges at a hospital close by.

North Dakota’s law doesn’t specify how to detect the fetal heartbeat. It can be detected as early as six weeks after conception using a vaginal ultrasound and 12 weeks into pregnancy using an abdominal ultrasound. Arkansas has passed a fetal heartbeat law bans most abortions at 12 weeks.

Dalrymple asked state lawmakers to approve funding to fight court challenges to the legislation. “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,” Dalrymple said in a statement. “Because the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed state restrictions on the performing of abortions and because the Supreme Court has never considered this precise restriction ... the constitutionality of this measure is an open question.”

The state’s only abortion clinic began receiving unsolicited donations to challenge the measures minutes after the governor signed them into law, AP says.

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