There were a few fireworks at the State Capitol today when House Bill 1313 was heard in the House Human Services Committee. This is, of course, the piece of legislation proposed by Rep. Jeff Hoverson (R – District 3) to ban abortion in North Dakota— an effort to nullify Roe v. Wade.
One moment in particular was troubling though. It came at the conclusion of a Minot man’s testimony in support of HB 1313. That man was Jasahd Stewart. After giving a passionate testimony, in which he actually displayed a poster showing an aborted baby, Rep. Greg Westlind (R – District 15) took issue with it. In a moment of apparently trying to educate Mr. Stewart, the following exchange took place (see video here at the 4:41:40 mark):
Rep. Westlind: “I don’t have a question. I would just like to state the fact that dismemberment abortion is not legal in North Dakota.”
Jasahd Stewart: “I believe that’s a trigger, on a trigger bill. Is it not?”
Rep. Westlind: “No, I passed it last session. We had it passed in the House.”
Jasahd Stewart: “Okay, and praise God. I mean, I don’t want babies getting murdered either way.”
Rep. Westlind: “So, I don’t care for your illustration there.”
Jasahd Stewart: “Okay. That’s your opinion, representative.”
Rep. Westlind: “It’s not happening in the state anymore.”
There’s just one problem with Westlind’s claim that dismemberment abortion is now illegal in North Dakota— it’s simply not true.
It’s true that Rep. Westlind was the bill carrier when the dismemberment ban was originally proposed in the House, during the 2019 legislative session. But even then it had trigger language that had been added to it in committee. That language was later dropped for different trigger language in the Senate, and then the bill was passed and signed by the governor.
(Editorial Note: A bill carrier is a legislator who’s assigned to explain and speak in favor of legislation on the floor and to answer any questions about it. This assignment is made by the chairman of the committee that held hearings on the bill.)
I wrote about all this back in April of 2019. You can see the versions of the dismemberment bill here. And here’s the link to it in the North Dakota Century Code today. If you click on the blue “See note”, it’ll take you to the trigger language, which reads:
As provided by S.L. 2019, ch. 126, § 3, this section becomes effective on the thirtieth day after the adoption of an amendment to the United States Constitution which, in whole or in part, restores to the states the authority to prohibit abortion, or on the thirtieth day after the attorney general certifies to the legislative council:
- The issuance of the judgment in any decision of the United States Supreme Court or the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit which would allow enforcement of section 1 of this Act; or
- The issuance of the judgment in any decision of the United States Supreme Court which, in whole or in part, restores to the states authority to prohibit abortion.
As you can see, neither of those two circumstances have occurred. In other words, dismemberment abortion is legal in North Dakota today.
I find Rep. Westlind’s comments troubling for a few reasons:
- They reflect an all too common misunderstanding of what actually occurred with the proposed ban on dismemberment abortion in 2019.
- They were said in a publicly televised legislative hearing, in which viewers may go away thinking Westlind was accurate— when he wasn’t.
- It shows that either Rep. Westlind was intentionally being dishonest or he simply didn’t understand what happened with the dismemberment legislation he voted for in 2019.
When it comes to #3, what other conclusions can we draw? I’ll remind you that Rep. Westlind voted for passage of the bill — not once, but twice– and he was also on the committee that approved of the original trigger language amendment. Oh, and again, he carried the bill out of committee too.
Is it honestly possible that Westlind participated in those ways and didn’t understand there was trigger language in the bill? Perhaps, but either way it doesn’t reflect well on the representative from District 15.
(Note #1: Dismemberment abortions take place in the second trimester of pregnancy. According to one policy director for the Guttmacher Institute — a reproductive rights group — these procedures must be done after 15 weeks for most pregnancies. This 2019 report from the North Dakota Department of Health shows 97 pregnancies terminated at 13 weeks and beyond for that year. It remains unclear how many were dismemberment abortions.)
(Note #2: Many pro-life advocates have had their eyes on Arkansas’ dismemberment ban, as its had a legal rollercoaster ride with the courts since its passage. Arkansas is part of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals— as is North Dakota.)
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- North Dakota Bill Versions: HB 1313 (nd.gov)
- ND’s Proposed Abortion Ban Would Nullify Roe v. Wade – The Minuteman Blog
- North Dakota Legislative Branch Video (nd.gov)
- North Dakota Bill Video: HB 1546 (nd.gov)
- North Dakota Bill Actions: HB 1546 (nd.gov)
- The Dismemberment Abortion Ban Doesn’t Really Ban Dismemberment- For Now – The Minuteman Blog
- North Dakota Bill Versions: HB 1546 (nd.gov)
- North Dakota Century Code t14c02.1 (nd.gov)
- 2019_126_3.pdf (nd.gov)
- Human Services | North Dakota Legislative Branch (nd.gov)
- Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) | CS Mott Children’s Hospital | Michigan Medicine
- North Dakota State Senate approves abortion method ban | Health | willistonherald.com
- itop 2019.pdf (nd.gov)
- Laws on abortion again put on hold in Arkansas (arkansasonline.com)