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House passes ban on coerced abortion. (Photo: Lydia Hoverson/The Dakotan
House passes ban on coerced abortion. (Photo: Lydia Hoverson/The Dakotan

Ban on Forced Abortion Passes North Dakota House 

Lydia Hoverson
 January 18, 2023
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Religion Questions on Floor 

BISMARCK – The North Dakota State House passed a ban on coerced and forced abortions Wednesday with only one representative voting against it. 

House Bill 1171 creates a class C felony for the coercion or forcing of abortion, passing the House Health and Human Services Committee with a 14-0 Do Pass recommendation. Its bill carrier, Representative Kathy Frelich, R-Dis. 15, Devils Lake, said the bill closely mirrors current legislation against human trafficking coercion.  

“Regardless of which side of the abortion issue you are on, this is a good bill,” said Frelich. “Forcing an abortion should be a crime no matter who is the perpetrator, and no matter who is the victim.” 

The House also passed HB 1136, which prohibits the government from substantially burdening religious exercise and restricting religious conduct more than secular conduct of comparable risk. The bill creates an exception if the burden is essential to compelling a further governmental interest in the least restrictive means. 

Representative Josh Boschee, D-Dis. 44, Fargo, asked for examples on how the bill would play out, to which the bill carrier, Representative Cole Christensen, R-Dis. 24, Rogers, responded with examples of COVID restrictions in other states in the past. 

Representative Josh Boschee, D-Dis. 44, Fargo, asks about the implications of a religious exercise bill. (Photo: Lydia Hoverson/The Dakotan)

“During COVID, private businesses were closed down,” Boschee responded. “We couldn’t gather in community centers or basketball games, movie theaters. How would the exercise of religion be more restrictive than the secular exercise?” 

“If a state or local government shuts everything down, then it could shut down religious activity too,” said the sponsor of the bill, Representative Lawrence Klemin, R-Dis. 47, Bismarck. “In other words, they’re all treated the same. This is an expansion of what we already passed in the 2021 session during the pandemic issue relating to the powers of the governor.” 

The bill passed 90 to 0. 

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