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House passes second abortion bill in 2 days

BISMARCK -- The North Dakota House passed a bill Tuesday that sets the state up to challenge the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.

Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, the sponsor of House Bill 1572, said the bill defines human life as beginning at fertilization of a woman's egg by a man's sperm, because the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 instructs states "that in order to challenge, we have to stipulate when life begins."

The vote was 51-41. The bill had come from the House Human Services Committee, which had given the bill a do-not-pass recommendation on a 7-6 vote.

Rep. Kari Conrad, D-Minot, who had been assigned to explain the bill, said it bill also makes legislators official interveners if the state attorney general must defend the law, which she said is questionable in constitutional law.

If passed, she said, the state would likely spend between $5 million and $8 million defending the law in court, and it threatens doctors who must treat a woman with an ectopic or tubal pregnancy, a situation that can cause a woman to bleed to death.

"This is a very extreme (bill) and a very costly one and I don't think the people of North Dakota want it," Conrad said.

Ruby said the language in the bill is "not as aggressive as a direct ban" on abortion does not threaten doctors treating a woman with an ectopic pregnancy and does not affect use of contraception.

He downplayed a $5 million cost, noting that the Legislature routinely is informed that building one mile of paved road costs $1 million.

"And we're worried about that, for human life," he said.

This was the second abortion bill in two days that the House has adopted.

On Monday, it passed House Bill 1445 on a 61-31 vote. It would require a woman seeking an abortion to be told that the procedure will end the life of a unique human being.

The sponsor, Rep. Chuck Damschen, R-Hampden, said the bill keeps the woman considering an abortion "totally informed." It also defines human life as beginning with fertilization.

Damschen also argued for passage of HB 1572, saying, "I guess you have to deal with this and vote with your heart."

Both bills now go to the Senate for further consideration.