The group often whittled proposals down to just a few, if any, bills each session that had the backing of lawmakers and national anti-abortion groups.
“The problem was we could never get all the groups on the same page,” Bismarck Republican Sen. Margaret Sitte said.
Sitte introduced some of this year’s anti-abortion measures, including the “personhood” resolution. She said the idea came from her heart — with inspiration from former President Ronald Reagan and legal language lifted from an online encyclopedia.
“There was no grandiose plan,” Sitte said, adding that the template for the personhood resolution came from a quick web search. “It came from Wikipedia.”
Sitte and other abortion foes acknowledge they want to shut down North Dakota’s only abortion clinic, which is in Fargo, the state’s largest city. They also hope to challenge the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until a fetus is considered viable, usually around 22 to 24 weeks into a pregnancy.
Jordan Goldberg, state advocacy counsel for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, said the measures are backed by large anti-abortion organizations or smaller “fringe” groups.
“None of the bills originated in North Dakota. All the bills came from out of state, every single one of them,” Goldberg said.
Critics of North Dakota’s proposals say the state of about 700,000 residents is setting itself up for a costly legal battle that would be tough to win.
North Dakota is uniquely positioned to undertake an expensive legal fight. Fueled by the unprecedented oil bonanza in the western part of the state, North Dakota boasts a nearly $2 billion state budget surplus and has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation.
Still, the record production that has thrust the state to the nation’s No. 2 oil producer behind Texas also has brought challenges, including more crime brought on by an exploding population and torn-up roads from increased traffic. Hundreds of millions of dollars in new housing construction and infrastructure improvements haven’t kept pace.
Rep. Kathy Hawken, a Republican from Fargo who supports legal abortion, said she believes most of the state’s residents would prefer to see lawmakers focus on other issues, such as taxes and education.
“This is not coming from here, from the people of our state. It’s coming from out of state,” she said of the anti-abortion legislation.
Hawken is among a bipartisan group of about 10 lawmakers who have urged Dalrymple to veto anti-abortion measures.
“We’re clearly not the brightest bulbs in the bunch if we take a legal medical procedure and try and make it illegal,” she said.