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N.D. governor vetoes parts of pro-life funding bill

Planned Parenthood Glynnis Jones/Shutterstock

North Dakota’s governor last week partially vetoed a bill penalizing state universities for conducting business with abortion providers.

The state’s legislature had passed SB 2030, which prohibited challenge grant money from going to universities that partner with organizations that provide or support abortion. The legislature passed the bill to sanction North Dakota State University for its continued refusal to stop funding Planned Parenthood.

The bill also set up penalties for university partnerships with abortion providers, mandating operating budget cuts to the schools in violation and fines and jail time for school officials. Gov. Doug Burgum (R) vetoed those provisions, however, saying they were “void of due process” and that the penalty was “egregious in its amount.” 

In his veto letter, the governor affirmed his administration’s pro-life record.

“In the end, it’s a win,” Christopher Dodson, executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference (NDCC), told CNA. “The bill doesn’t have the higher penalties, but it still says if those universities want the matching grants to help their students, all they have to do is not do business with Planned Parenthood. It’s that simple.”

For every two dollars raised by state colleges and universities for scholarships and academic initiatives, the state matches one dollar, under North Dakota’s challenge grant program.

Because of the challenge grants statute, Dodson called it “a pro-life victory.”  He also said it is good for students because the matching grants are still available.

He said the state Catholic conference has not taken a stance on supporting an override of the veto.

Burgum had vetoed provisions including a 2.5% operating budget cut penalty for universities in violation of the legislation. School officials signing agreements with abortion providers would be subject to jail time and a $1500 fine.

North Dakota State University (NDSU) would have been penalized $2.8 million as a result of the original language in the bill.

For over eight years, NDSU has been accepting a federal grant for a “PREP: Making Healthy Choices” sex education program. The grant comes from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Since accepting the grant in 2012, NDSU has given over $1.5 million to Planned Parenthood for its sex education program.

“Two years ago, 90 legislators wrote to NDSU’s president saying, this has got to stop,” Dodson told CNA. “And basically, the university thumbed their nose as they renewed their grant, and that’s why the legislators said enough is enough and put this language on the existing bill.”

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No federal or state money going through universities was used for abortions, Dodson mentioned. “That was never the issue,” he said. “The issue was that the state should not partner with an abortion provider on anything, even if abortion is not involved.”

NDSU’s federal grant expires in September 2021. The university said they will not be renewing the grant, the AP reported.

“The bill is not saying what you can teach, how to teach, or how to research,” Dodson said. “All its saying is don’t do it with an abortion provider. Because in our view, you don’t partner with someone with so much death on their hands.”

In April, Gov. Burgum vetoed a bill that prohibited biological males identifying as transgender females from participating in girls’ public elementary and secondary sports.

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