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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Proposed ballot intended to make abortions in ND a felony crime

  • A proposed ballot measure supporters say is intended to restrict abortions in North Dakota would make it a felony.


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  • A proposed ballot measure supporters say is intended to restrict abortions in North Dakota would make it a felony to decapitate or crush the skull of a fetus.
        Secretary of State Al Jaeger said the proposed initiative petition was turned in to his office late Tuesday. He has until April 22 to review the measure and approve it for circulation.
        North Dakota’s constitution gives residents the right to put state laws directly to a vote if they can muster enough petition signatures. Backers of the measure will need signatures from at least 12,844 voters to put the proposal on the ballot.
        The proposal seeks to ban the use of ‘‘any instrument or procedure to grasp the skull or neck’’ of a fetus in order to decapitate it or crush its skull. Any doctor who did so could be prosecuted for a felony that carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
        If a skull fragment were to seriously injure the woman during an abortion, the doctor would face a life prison term without possibility of parole, the measure says.
        One of the sponsors, state Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, said the initiative is meant in part to prevent an abortion procedure during which the fetus is partially removed from the woman, and then its skull is compressed or crushed to help its removal. Abortion opponents call the procedure ‘‘partial-birth’’ abortion.
        The U.S. Supreme Court in 2007 upheld a federal law banning partial-birth abortions. The chairman of the North Dakota measure, Daniel Woodard, of Minot, said his proposal also would apply if a fetus remained inside the womb during the procedure.
        ‘‘I see this as an incremental way to provide protection for unborn children. It is something (voters) can understand, something they can grasp,’’ Woodard said. ‘‘They know what decapitation is. They know what skull crushing is.’’
        North Dakota’s only abortion provider, the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, was closed late Tuesday and a spokeswoman could not be reached through its answering service.
        Ruby said he did not believe the measure would affect the clinic, but said it could prevent the skull-crushing procedure from being performed in the state.
        ‘‘I don’t think any form of abortion is what you would call humane, but this seems to be particularly gruesome, and in many cases it is used in later-term abortions,’’ Ruby said. ‘‘I just want to make sure that this doesn’t happen in North Dakota.’’
        Ruby has sponsored a number of anti-abortion bills in the North Dakota Legislature. During the 2009 session, he sponsored a bill that sought to confer human rights on a fertilized egg. It was approved in the House, but defeated in the Senate.
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