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Fourth anti-abortion bill sent to governor

BISMARCK -- House lawmakers have sent Gov. Jack Dalrymple a fourth, and final, anti-abortion bill that prohibits an abortion after 20 weeks and defines life at conception.

House Bill 2368 had passed both houses earlier in the session but could not be included with the first three abortion bills sent to Dalrymple because of differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

The bill was sent to a conference committee, where an amendment that would have prohibited state agencies from contracting with an organization that advocates for the practice of abortion was eliminated.

It has been awaiting a floor vote since then. Friday, with only five minutes of discussion, the House passed the bill 60-32.

The bill prohibits an abortion at a time when a fetus can feel pain, which some say is about 20 weeks.

Rep. Gail Mooney, D-Cummings, said science does not have an actual answer as to when a fetus can feel pain.

"For this body to add a definition not based on science does not make sense," she said.

She urged the House to vote down the measure, noting the three previously passed bills and resolution that, if approved in a statewide vote, would grant legal protections to the unborn, are enough.

"With four on the docket, we have done our job of making the point we don't want abortion," she said.

Voter ID

The Legislature has sent Gov. Jack Dalrymple a bill requiring an identification to vote.

By a 60-24 vote, the House passed House Bill 1332, which will abolish the use of voter affidavits if Dalrymple signs it.

Those backing the measure have said the affidavit process, which allows people to vote without proving who they or where they live, causes multiple problems during an election and can easily lead to voter fraud.

During the 2012 election, 10,519 affidavits were signed, 379 were returned to the county auditor as unverifiable, and nine are being prosecuted as fraudulent, all out of a total of 325,000 votes.

"When you have that many affidavits, when you don't know for sure if they are who they say they are, we need to clean up our election process," said Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo.

Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, said the bill would make voting the first right to require a state-issued ID card.

"The bill is a solution in search of many more problems. It doesn't do anything to preserve the integrity of our election system," Mock said. "It creates additional burdens for people in our state. We want them to vote, yet this is one more factor to keep them from casting their vote on Election Day."

The bill does require the Department of Transportation to provide a free identification to anyone without a driver's license.

But some concerns are whether college students and elderly people will be able to obtain an ID since they may not have a permanent residence or be physically able to pick up an ID.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Randy Boehning, R-Fargo, has said the DOT and university system will work with students and the elderly on issues that may arise.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.