WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published May 02, 2013, 11:05 PM

"Heartbeat Regulation" Part one: What lies ahead for ND's abortion laws

A little over a month ago Governor Jack Dalrymple signed three pieces of legislation that gave North Dakota the strictest abortion laws in the nation.

A little over a month ago Governor Jack Dalrymple signed three pieces of legislation that gave North Dakota the strictest abortion laws in the nation.

Abortion is a topic most news outlets try to steer clear of because of the controversy that comes with it. But we're not shying away. We've compiled a two-part series called Heartbeat Regulation which answers a lot of questions we received from you at home.

This nationwide battle dates back centuries and right here in North Dakota legislators are making history. These stringent restrictions are expected to cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in court fees if not more, and petitioners are already spanning the state searching for signatures to begin what's expected to be a very lengthy court battle.

Backlash to the Governor's signature was immediate in Grand Forks. Two new laws ban abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected and in the case of genetic defects. The third requires abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges. Those become law on August 1st unless a court blocks them.

Steven Morrison, UND Constitutional Law Professor: "I can virtually guarantee that challengers to the bills will go to court before then."

Morrison says a preliminary injunction will stop enforcement of the laws in their tracks.

Morrison: "I'm quite certain that any state or federal court will issue an injunction."

If that happens, the Red River Women's Clinic can continue to operate and doctors who perform abortions can't be prosecuted. Heartbeat and Sex Selection bill sponsor Bette Grande says it's always been about the beating heart.

Grande: "We've been told by the federal courts that the states have a compelling interest to see inside the womb and determine what is the potential life of this unborn child, a heartbeat proves that life to us."

Abortion legislation has long caused a heated debate in the North Dakota legislature, making some local representatives up and leave the Senate chambers during discussion. Local lawyers are expecting a lengthy timeline if these laws make it to court.

Mitch Mraovic: "It's something that's not going to be resolved overnight certainly."

Some estimate the battle could last years.

Morrison: "We're going to get discovery, we're going to get expert testimony, it might go to a trial that could take as long as two years."

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has set aside 400,000 dollars for court fees, but is that enough?

Morrison: "The attorney general probably knows best but I would suggest that's somewhat of a conservative amount."

Pro-life advocates say some lawyers will be the first in line to stand by their views.

Bette Grande: "We have many great attorneys across the nation that are more than willing to come in at a very low rate cost to help us defend these issues."

Others say it's worth the fight.

Michael Brown, Grand Forks Mayor and Doctor: "I'm very proud of our state for standing up for what we believe and I think there's going to be a cost for what we believe but I think the cost is well worth it."

Petitions are already in the works in Grand Forks and across the state. 13,452 signatures are needed within the next two months to put this issue on the 2014 ballot. Part two of Heartbeat Regulation airs tomorrow at 10:00 and hones in on why it's North Dakota that's the first state to pass such strict abortion regulations.