BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota lawmakers negotiating final details of an anti-abortion measure killed an amendment Tuesday that threatened a three-year, $1.2 million federal sex education grant for North Dakota State University.
A conference committee of three House members and three senators voted unanimously Tuesday to delete the amendment from a Senate measure. The bill aims to outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain at that point. The measure is a challenge to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion up until viability, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.
Last week, Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed into law the nation’s strictest restriction on abortion — a measure that bans the practice when a heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. He signed two other measures banning abortions because a fetus has genetic defects such as Down syndrome and requiring a doctor who performs abortions to be a physician with hospital-admitting privileges.
NDSU’s grant provides funding for voluntary sex education to Fargo-area teens ages 15 to 19 with parental consent. The grant was frozen after attorneys questioned whether it would violate a state law that forbids government funding to people or groups that encourage abortion.
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem ruled in February that the school could legally accept the grant.
North Dakota’s House endorsed the Senate’s so-called fetal pain bill 60-32 last month with the inclusion of the amendment aimed at halting sex-ed grant funding. Senators approved the original measure 30-17 in February.
The House will now vote whether to accept the conference committee’s recommendation.
“I don’t anticipate any problem with the bill, said Republican Sen. Spencer Berry, a physician from Fargo and sponsor of the measure.
Berry also headed the six-member conference committee that took less than 10 minutes Tuesday morning to strip the amendment that would forbid the use of government money to “contract with, or provide financial or other support to individuals, organizations, or entities performing, inducing, referring for, or counseling in favor of, abortions.”
The amendment had drawn criticism from abortion-rights advocates and some at the Fargo-based university.
“There was some confusion and concern as to unintended consequences,” Berry said of the amendment.
Dalrymple has hinted that he will sign the fetal pain measure once it reaches his desk.
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