A similar fetal heartbeat bill was debated by Ohio lawmakers last year before being blocked by the Senate president. The measure, which could be revived this year, fractured Ohio's anti-abortion movement in a debate over its tactical effectiveness.
Grande told lawmakers that fears about a legal challenge shouldn't prevent them from approving the North Dakota measure.
"Whether this is challenged in court is entirely up to the abortion industry," Grande told lawmakers this week. "Given the lucrative nature of abortion, it is likely that any statute that reduces the number of customers will be challenged by the industry."
During the Senate debate, one senator who had spoken out against the genetic abnormalities bill left the chamber in protest. The move forced the Senate to briefly halt debate, because the chambers rules require senators to be formally excused. The Senate was able to move forward with proceedings on the bill by passing a motion to excuse the senator.
"It was absolutely a silent protest," Sen. Connie Triplett told The Associated Press after the vote. "North Dakota will have a harder time recruiting and retaining doctors because doctors will not want to be arrested for advising women on abortion issues."
Sen. Margaret Sitte, a Republican from Bismarck, said the genetic abnormality bill is meant to ban the destruction of life based on "an arbitrary society standard of being good enough." Some test results pointing to abnormalities are incorrect, she said, and doctors can perform surgeries even before a baby is born to correct some genetic conditions.
Sitte's voice cracked as she described developmentally challenged children she knows. "Their hugs are tighter, their laughter louder and their empathy more sincere" than so-called "normal people," she said.
The genetic abnormalities bill also bans abortion based on gender selection. Pennsylvania, Arizona and Oklahoma already have such laws, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion restrictions across the U.S.
The Senate approved the genetic abnormalities bill 27-15; the House vote was 64-27. The Senate approved the fetal heartbeat bill 26-17; the House vote was 63-28.
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