BISMARK, ND, March 26, 2013 ( – The governor of North Dakota today signed three pieces of pro-life legislation, including a bill that bans abortions in the state after the heartbeat of the unborn child can be detected – as early as six weeks gestation.

The heartbeat law is now the most restrictive abortion law in the country. Once enforced, it would prevent most or all surgical abortions in the state.

The governor signed two other bills, including a ban on abortions for genetic abnormalities such as Down syndrome and a bill that requires that abortionists have admitting privileges at a local hospital.


In signing the heartbeat bill, Gov. Jack Dalymple admitted that the legislation is almost certain to trigger a legal challenge. He urged the legislature to put aside funds for the pending fight.

“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,” Gov. 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 in HB 1456, the constitutionality of this measure is an open question.”

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The measure is being viewed as a direct challenge to Roe, in which the Supreme Court had said that states cannot restrict abortion before viability. But pro-life advocates argue that the science of embryology has advanced since that court decision, proving beyond a doubt that the unborn child is human at all stages of development.

The Center for Reproductive Rights has already announced that it will challenge the law in court. 

“North Dakota has set a new standard for extreme hostility toward the rights and health of women, the U.S. Constitution, and 40 years of Supreme Court precedent,” Nancy Northup, the center's president and chief executive, said in a statement.  “We will not allow this frontal assault on fundamental reproductive rights to go unchallenged.”

North Dakota’s heartbeat bill includes exceptions if an abortion would prevent the death or irreversible impairment of a pregnant woman. However, it includes no exception for rape. 

North Dakota has only one abortion facility, located in Fargo. Pro-life activists hope that the heartbeat bill will shut that business down, making the state the first abortion-free state in the union. 

Last week, the legislature also became the first state legislature to pass a personhood amendment. That amendment now goes to the people of North Dakota for a vote. 

Earlier this month, the Arkansas legislature approved a heartbeat bill, overturning the veto of Democratic Governor Mike Beebe to do so. That law bans abortion after 12 weeks.