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Campaign to ban abortion

From an editorial published in the New York Times on Monday:

Anti-abortion groups have been trying to reimpose restrictions on abortion rights for 40 years, but the legislature and governor of North Dakota have taken this attack on women’s reproductive health and freedom to a shocking new low by passing a bill that they must know is unconstitutional by any reading of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and others since.

Under those rulings, full abortion bans are allowable only after fetal viability, which the medical community generally considers to be around 24 weeks into pregnancy. But North Dakota joins a growing list of states trying to set that limit earlier, including Arkansas and its unconstitutional ban after 12 weeks, enacted just three weeks ago.

North Dakota’s Republican governor, Jack Dalrymple, signed extreme laws that went even further, centering on a brazenly unconstitutional ban on nearly all abortions once a fetal heartbeat is “detectable.” That could be as early as six weeks into pregnancy, when some women do not even know they are pregnant.

The six-weeks ban stands little chance of surviving a court challenge. But bad ideas spread fast in this realm, and these kinds of actions show the rising influence of a formerly fringe element of the anti-abortion movement that is dissatisfied with its side’s considerable progress in incrementally curbing abortions. It is anxious to speed a case to the conservative-dominated Supreme Court.

The campaign goes beyond abortion to the continuing Republican drive in Texas and other states to close down Planned Parenthood clinics that provide critical services like birth control counseling and cancer screenings. So far, nine states have acted to defund Planned Parenthood, threatening preventive care relied upon by hundreds of thousands of people. A pending bill in Arkansas takes the ultra-extreme approach of barring any company that contracts with a health center that provides abortions or gives women information about all their pregnancy options from receiving any state contracts or public funds.

The North Dakota legislature has also decided to put on next year’s ballot a so-called personhood measure that would give a fertilized egg the full range of individual rights and could outlaw abortion and threaten access to fertility treatments as well as to widely used forms of birth control. Voters have defeated similar measures in Mississippi and Colorado.

The clear message is the need for a stepped-up effort to hold state officials electorally accountable for policies that harm women in states where right-wing Republicans control the machinery of government.

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