Activists lack heart in abortion debate

Since 2011, nine states have enacted bills that ban abortion 20 weeks after fertilization, based on the theory that the fetus can feel pain at that point (this notion is not accepted by mainstream medical organizations).

On Tuesday, Gov. Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota approved the nation’s toughest abortion restrictions, signing into law a measure that would ban nearly all abortions and inviting a legal showdown over just how much states can limit access to the procedure. The law forbids abortion once a fetal heartbeat is “detectable,” which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Dalrymple also affirmed a law to require doctors performing abortions to get admitting privileges at a local hospital. He also signed a third law that would prevent abortion in cases of genetic defects, like Down syndrome.

The Red River Women’s Clinic, which is tucked inside a downtown Fargo building, is the only alternative for women seeking abortion services for hundreds of miles. The clinic has three full-time employees and three doctors who travel from Minnesota and Colorado to serve patients from North Dakota, northwest Minnesota and South Dakota.

If Red River closes, or if staff is forced to practice elsewhere, the nearest clinics that perform abortions are about 250 miles to the southeast in the Twin Cities or to the south in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Without judicial intervention, the three bills are scheduled to take effect Aug. 1.

The new laws place North Dakota at the center of sharp efforts in several Republican-controlled states to curb abortion rights. Three weeks ago, Arkansas lawmakers adopted what at the time was the country’s most stringent abortion limit, also tied to detection of a fetal heartbeat and banning the procedure at 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Similar measures to ban abortions when fetal heartbeats are detected are under consideration in several other states, including Kansas and Ohio.

This draconian legislation is clearly misogynistic. Many women only learn they’re pregnant after their first missed period (anywhere from four to six weeks). And since men don’t have to deal with the physical, and many times emotional and financial, burden of a surprise pregnancy, it is easy for them to ostracize women’s rights/health/lives. But what is most disturbing are the women who are outwardly taking away women’s rights.

Senator Margaret Sitte sees the new North Dakota abortion laws as “pro-women.”

State representative Bette Grande, a republican who was the primary sponsor of the heartbeat bill, praised the governor’s decision.

“This is just a great day for babies in North Dakota,” she said, expressing confidence that it would withstand the court challenges.

Such restrictions are abhorrent on so many levels. It elevates the right to life of a fertilized egg above the right to life and health of the already living, breathing woman, mother, sister, and/or child carrying it. It invades an individual woman’s right to make her own decisions about her life, her health and her morality. It forces women to bear a fertilized egg to term regardless of the circumstances, or perhaps barbarity, of how conception occurred.

The simple fact is: women are always going to get abortions. They have gotten them since the beginning of civilization, regardless of religion, class, and the legality of the procedure.

Women can either have legal abortions in a safe and clean environment where the doctor is certified to do the process. Or she can have one in an illegal, unregulated environment and suffer what can be severe consequences, even death, as a result of an unlicensed person.

I find it a bit ironic that these “anti-choice” activists (I refuse to use the term “pro-life”) are using the fetus’ heartbeat as their anchor, for clearly, none of these people have hearts themselves.

Sarah T. Schwab is a Sunday OBSERVER contributor and Fredonia State graduate. Send comments to or view her Web site at