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North Dakota's anti-abortion lawmakers, activists look forward to post-Roe world

Some anti-abortion activists believe lawmakers should bump up support for new and expectant mothers and their children in light of the abortion ban.

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Republican Minot Rep. Jeff Hoverson speaks at a rally against mandatory mask-wearing on April 5, 2021.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service
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BISMARCK — North Dakota lawmakers, lobbyists and activists who have long sought to restrict abortion were elated when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

Some are still reveling in knowing that most abortions will not continue in North Dakota when the state’s trigger law goes into effect on July 28. Others say there is still work to be done to support new and expectant mothers and their children.

State Sen. Janne Myrdal, R-Edinburg, has been one of the Legislature’s most fervent anti-abortion voices since she arrived in 2016. She welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling, calling it a win for “pro-lifers” and the Constitution.

With the state’s only abortion clinic likely moving from Fargo to Moorhead, Myrdal said abortions may continue across the Red River, but the procedures being illegal in North Dakota could stick out in the consciences of people and act as deterrent.

The Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo performed 1,171 abortions in 2020, including 833 on North Dakota residents.

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Myrdal said she does not have immediate plans to bring forward any abortion-related legislation, though she could foresee legislators doing some “small cleanup” of existing abortion laws. Myrdal noted she does not intend to pursue legislation restricting access to contraception.

Minot Republican Rep. Jeff Hoverson sponsored an unsuccessful bill last year that would have made performing an abortion in the state legally akin to murdering an unborn child.

Hoverson said of the high court ruling, “We have to savor this historic moment.” The lawmaker said he would oppose any legislation that is “against life,” but he did not have plans to promote any specific legislation.

Both Myrdal and Hoverson said they have no appetite for legislation that would attempt to bar North Dakotans from traveling to other states for abortions — a concept supported by several national anti-abortion groups, according to the Washington Post.

Photo: Janne Myrdal transgender athletes debate
Sen. Janne Myrdal, R-Edinburg, speaks in support of a bill that would prohibit transgender girls from participating in K-12 girls' athletic competitions on Monday, March 29, 2021.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service

In a statement applauding the Supreme Court ruling, Republican Gov. Doug Burgum said "we must now turn to prioritizing women’s health, including expectant mothers and children in need.”

A spokesman for Burgum did not respond to a question asking what Burgum meant by the comment.

Christopher Dodson, the director of North Dakota Catholic Conference, has advocated for abortion restrictions in the state for nearly three decades.

Dodson told Forum News Service the Legislature should make sure it provides ample support to new and expectant mothers going forward.

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He called on lawmakers to dedicate more funding to an abortion alternative program that reimburses pregnancy centers, maternity homes and adoption agencies for services to women who are pregnant or believe they are pregnant.

Anti-abortion activists have their own ideas of what legislation should come next.

Ken Koehler, 73, from West Fargo, has been protesting outside abortion clinics since 1981 and came out Wednesday to Red River Women’s Clinic. He said he supports legislation “that would protect all human life, born and unborn,” but he does not believe the sale of contraceptives should be banned or limited.

Protesters and patient escorts on the sidewalk near the Red River Women's Clinic on Wednesday, June 29, 2022.jpg
Anti-abortion protesters and patient escorts stand on the sidewalk outside of the Red River Women's Clinic on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, in downtown Fargo.
C.S. Hagen/The Forum

Abortion clinic protester Anna Brendemuhl, 23, said the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade was “a step in the right direction.”

“I would like to see every state pass laws making abortions illegal, but I also think that more and more support needs to go toward the foster care system,” Brendemuhl said. “I really don’t know what should be done, but it does need help. And I’m not sure if it should be government and taxpayer money, maybe people can donate their own money.”

Forum reporter C.S. Hagen contributed to this story.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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