Last month, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) approved the most stringent abortion restrictions in the nation, including a “fetal heartbeat” ban that outlaws abortion services after just six weeks of pregnancy. Women’s health advocates warned that the unconstitutional heartbeat measure would end up in court, but Dalrymple didn’t care. In fact, the governor admitted he signed the legislation specifically because he wants to invite a legal battle that could test the limits of Roe v. Wade.
But that battle won’t come without some kind of cost. North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has requested a $400,000 budget increase to defend any lawsuits that arise from the new abortion bans. On Wednesday, the state’s Senate Appropriations Committe voted unanimously to approve that request, which will now head to the full legislature for consideration.
Even the Republican lawmakers who define themselves as fiscal conservatives aren’t necessarily concerned about the potential costs of North Dakota’s abortion litigation. “We have a lot of important things to spend money on, but I didn’t give any consideration to the cost,” state Sen. Dwight Cook (R), who chairs the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee, said of the potential lawsuits over the new laws. “I don’t look at it from the financial side of things; I look at it from the life side of things,” Rep. Bette Grande (R), who introduced the heartbeat measure, explained.
Grande also noted that the fear of potential lawsuits shouldn’t deter other states from passing their own laws challenging Roe v. Wade. Lawmakers in Arkansas are taking that advice to heart. At the beginning of March, the Arkansas legislature overrode their governor to enact a 12-week abortion ban that now awaits its own day in court.