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Committee removes NDSU amendment from anti-abortion bill

BISMARCK - A small group of lawmakers quickly removed an amendment Tuesday morning from an anti-abortion bill that would have prevented state agencies from contracting with an individual or organization that advocates the practice of abortion.

The amendment was removed from Senate Bill 2368, which seeks to define birth at conception and prohibit abortions after 20 weeks, within 10 minutes by a 6-0 conference committee vote.

Dubbed the "Grande Amendment," after its sponsor, Rep. Bette Grande, R-Fargo, the amendment would have prohibited the use of government funds to "contract with, or provide financial or other support to individuals, organizations, or entities performing, inducing, referring for, or counseling in favor of, abortions."

The amendment sought to halt a new voluntary sex education program at North Dakota State University.

The university was awarded a $1.2 million, three-year grant last September and are teaming up with Planned Parenthood to launch a comprehensive sex education and life skills program to at-risk Fargo teens ages 15 to 19 with parental consent.

Sen. Stan Lyson, R-Williston, a member of the six-person conference committee, quickly motioned to strip the amendments from the bill.

He said he didn't want to have to fight against the amendments, which he didn't support.

"I told the committee, 'We can stay here until the end of the session, I don't like these amendments,'" he said.

Part of the consternation that came after the amendment was added in mid-March, came from the Department of Human Services, which was worried it would have affected some Medicaid payments, prohibiting the state from entering into contracts with hospitals and clinics that occasionally counsel to end a pregnancy for health reasons.

The House, which had passed the bill with the amendment, will have to vote on it again without the amendment. That is likely to happen in the next few days. No formal action is needed by the Senate.

If passed by the House, the bill will then be sent to Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who already has signed three other anti-abortion bills passed this session.