It’s a we-told-you-so moment. North Dakota’s abortion bill was a doomed stunt in 2013 when the Legislature passed it and the governor signed it. It did not survive review by a federal judge based in Bismarck. And last Wednesday, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling that blocked the state ban, which was viewed as the strictest state abortion ban in the nation.
We told you so.
The debate in 2013 had little to do with a common-sense approach to an emotional political issue. Rather, it turned on the empty-headed notion that North Dakota could make a statement – that North Dakota’s law would be the vehicle to take the matter all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and that North Dakota would prevail. That was the way anti-abortion legislators justified wasting taxpayer dollars on legal bills to defend a law that most legal scholars had concluded would not stand.
Both federal court rulings were informed by U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Supporters of the ban are urging Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem to appeal to the current high court, in the hopes a differently constituted court will upend precedent. Possible, but unlikely. While the court has gone along with modest abortion restrictions, a woman’s right to get an abortion, as defined by the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, has not been overturned in 40 years of trying.
Stenehjem said his office is reviewing the appeals court opinion. “Once the review is complete, we will make a determination of what further action, if any, is advisable,” he said. “If any,” is the operable phrase in the attorney general’s remarks. If recent history is any guide, he’s under a lot of political pressure to prepare an appeal to the Supreme Court. He should resist the pressure. He should say no to further appeal.
Meanwhile, it’s important to know that the Legislature’s 2013 abortion ban legislation did not prevent abortions in North Dakota. Not one. It never went into effect because of the legal wrangling. Money and resources that could have been used to help women seek alternatives to abortion were spent lobbying lawmakers and in courtrooms. What a waste.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.