Bishop David Kagan of Bismarck, N.D. praised the North Dakota legislature and governor for passing into law three pro-life bills that place stronger restrictions on abortion.
“The protection of all human life from the moment of conception to natural death is the primary purpose of government,” Bishop Kagan said March 26. “All persons, including our elected officials, are obligated to unceasingly seek protection of this basic human right.”
The bishop said he applauded members of the legislature who “bravely supported measures to extend protections to unborn human life and to advance the health of women.”
The new laws include bans on abortions performed after a fetal heartbeat is detectable and bans on abortions that target the unborn child on the basis of his or her sex or genetic abnormalities.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed the three bills into law on Tuesday. He acknowledged that they could provoke controversies in constitutional law.
He said it is uncertain whether the ban on post-heartbeat abortions will survive a court challenge. However, he said the bill is “a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade.”
The Supreme Court has never considered the precise restrictions based on a fetal heartbeat, he noted. The fetal heartbeat is detectable via ultrasound at about 12 weeks into pregnancy.
Gov. Dalrymple signed another bill that requires any abortionist in North Dakota to have admitting and staff privileges at a nearby hospital that allows abortions to take place in its facility.
“The added requirement that the hospital privileges must include allowing abortions to take place in their facility greatly increases the chances that this measure will face a court challenge,” he said.
“Nevertheless, it is a legitimate and new question for the courts regarding a precise restriction on doctors who perform abortions.”
Backers of the bill baring abortion for sex selection and genetic defects have said they follow American traditions against discrimination on the basis of sex or disability.
On March 22, the legislature approved another pro-life initiative that will go before North Dakota voters in 2014: an amendment to the state constitution that says “the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and defended.”
Christopher Dodson, executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, denied that the amendment is a “personhood amendment.” It would not ban abortion without legislative action, he clarified. Instead, the amendment provides guidance for the courts in interpreting state laws.
Bishop Kagan asked all Catholics in North Dakota to join him in prayer for all elected leaders this Holy Week.
“May the Author of Life grant them wisdom in all their endeavors,” said the bishop, who is also apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Fargo.