BISMARCK - President Barack Obama, pledging to fight state efforts to ban abortion practices, said Friday that North Dakota's most recent law prohibiting abortions as early as six weeks after conception is one attempt "to turn back the clock for policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century."
He pointed out during his speech to Planned Parenthood in Washington that 42 states have introduced laws to limit or ban abortion that would "severely limit access to a woman's right to choose."
Rep. Bette Grande, an anti-abortion advocate from Fargo who sponsored the bill that Obama mentioned, said his speech wasn't a surprise considering his voting record on the issue and strong national stance as president.
"I expect no less from someone who believes in the killing of a child after it is born," she said, alluding to his vote as state senator in Illinois against a bill that sought to extend legal protection to an infant born alive after a failed abortion.
She said Obama's comments Friday only emphasize the states' rights to regulate abortion practices, as prescribed in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The ruling said a woman has the right to privacy to have an abortion, but that right must be balanced with a state's interest in protecting the unborn and women's health.
"It's refreshing we can have a debate to the fact as to when is life to be acknowledged," she said.
Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo - the state's sole abortion provider - said she is glad Obama is acknowledging the state, but wishes it was for another reason.
"Even our president thinks these laws have gone too far and are not in step with what most Americans believe in," she said.
"North Dakota has put itself on the map as becoming the most restrictive state in the U.S., and the president sees that," she said. "The Legislature has put us on the map where most North Dakotans would not like to see."
One of North Dakota's new laws bans abortion if a heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. In his remarks, Obama was disgusted that the law doesn't allow an abortion even if the woman has been raped.
"A woman may not even know that she's pregnant at six weeks," he said.
Sen. Margaret Sitte, R-Bismarck, had not heard Obama's remarks by Friday afternoon, but said science has developed over the past 40 years to a point that has caused the 42 states to push abortion regulation.
She said women are now able to see much earlier the development of a child in the womb and the argument they don't know they are pregnant should not matter.
"I don't know anyone that has ever said when she found out she was pregnant that she would have a blob of tissue," she said. "Everyone knows it's a baby."
Sitte helped champion the four bills that were signed into law last month, and was the prime sponsor of a resolution that is on the 2014 ballot. If passed, the state constitution will be amended to include, "The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected."
Sitte said the president, in his remarks, is showing he doesn't relate to the people of North Dakota, "He does not reflect our values on so many issues."
"We're finally catching up with science, we're not turning back the clock at all," she said. "We will look back on the last 40 years and this time period as being a very barbaric time and really have trouble understanding us."