North Dakota's Senate approved two anti-abortion bills on Monday that would ban the destruction of human embryos and outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the disputed premise that at that point a fetus can feel pain.
Senators voted 30-17 to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The measure is a challenge to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until viability, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.
The embryo measure narrowly passed 24-23, with the full Senate present. The measure's aim is to prohibit the intentional destruction of embryos and to regulate in-vitro fertilization, in which a woman's egg is fertilized outside her body. The bill defines a human being as "an individual member of the species homo sapiens at every stage of development."
The measure also requires the state to expand Medicaid coverage to all pregnant women, which budget analysts estimate could cost taxpayers up to $9 million annually. Separate from the medical costs, the state Attorney General's office estimates the state could spend $60,000 in litigation costs defending the measure.
Neither bill makes exceptions for rape or incest. The measures now move to the House.
Critics of the measures say the intent is to shutter the state's sole abortion provider, the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo. Sen. Carolyn Nelson, D-Fargo, said the clinic performs no abortions past 16 weeks of pregnancy, so the bill banning abortions after 20 weeks was unneeded.