To: House Judiciary Committee
From: Christopher T. Dodson, Executive Director
Subject: House Bill 1464 (Revisions to Abortion Laws)
Date: January 22, 2007

The North Dakota Catholic Conference supports House Bill 1464.

North Dakota has long embraced reasonable regulations on the practice of abortion in order to protect women, foster parental involvement, respect the deeply-held views of taxpayers, ensure the collection of important public data, and foster, to the extent possible under law, a culture of life.

House Bill 1464 helps us continue those tasks by updating and improving the state’s existing laws related to abortion. It addresses changes in abortion practices, clarifies some statutory language, “cleans-up” some contradictory provisions, and makes improvements to some of the current policies.

It does not change the structure or underlying policies of the current law. It does not place new restrictions on abortion except to the extent it closes unintended gaps in the existing law. Although there is never a guarantee that opponents of such laws will not pursue litigation, there is nothing in HB 1464 that can reasonably said to be contrary to existing constitutional jurisprudence.

Finally, it does not, as some have already claimed, place a bunch of new requirements on what the abortionist must tell the woman considering an abortion. It adds only two reasonable pieces of information that must be provided to the woman. The first says that a woman must be informed about “any information that a reasonable patient would consider material to the decision of whether to undergo abortion.” The second states that the woman be told that she is “free to withhold or withdraw her consent to the abortion at any time without affecting her right to future care or treatment and without the loss of any state or federally funded benefits to which she might otherwise be entitled.” Everything else required exists in the current law.

What HB 1464
does do is enhance and strengthen the type of reasonable regulations on abortion that are supported by a majority of citizens and have been shown to reduce the incidence of and the demand for abortion.

The bill makes revisions to four parts of the Century Code. The changes to Chapter 14-02.1, which is called the Abortion Control Act, address definitions, the informed consent/Woman’s Right to Know provisions, the procedures for a judicial bypass in the case of a minor seeking an abortion, and the crime of causing the death of an infant born alive.The changes to Chapter 14-02.3, which is commonly called “Limitations on Abortion,” clarify state policy favoring childbirth.

North Dakota Century Code sections 15.1-19-05 and –06 address birth control devices and abortion in public schools. The changes to those sections in HB 1464 provide clarifications.

North Dakota Century Code section 23-16-14 protects a person from being compelled to participate in an abortion. The changes to this section add an up-to-date definition of “abortion.”

Those are the parts of the Code revised by HB 1464. In some cases, the changes occur in more than one part of the Code. Overall, the revisions in HB 1464 would:

• Clarifies that abortion statutes apply to the elimination of one or fetuses in a multiple fetal pregnancy;
• Clarifies that performance of abortion includes prescribing an abortion-inducing drug;
• Improves the content of printed materials needed for informed consent;
• Assures that the woman receives the printed materials;
• Directs the Department of Health to produce a video format to complement the printed materials;
• Clarifies that proceedings for a judicial by-pass for a minor seeking an abortion must occur in the county of the juvenile’s residence;
• Sets a standard of proof for bypass proceedings;
• Clarifies that the confidentiality provisions for the judicial bypass proceedings do not preclude release of information that does not identify the minor;
• Makes causing the death of an infant born alive a AA felony, consistent with homicide statute;
• Clarifies state policy in favor of childbirth; and
• Clarifies policy on birth control and abortion in public schools.

Mr. Chairman, I have included with my testimony an explanation of the changes, by page and line number. I am willing to explain the changes section by section or answer questions the committee may have on specific sections.

Thank you for this opportunity, we ask the committee to give a
Do Pass recommendation to House Bill 1464.