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N.D. advances tough abortion bills

BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota moved one step closer to adopting what would be the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, with lawmakers sending the Republican governor measures that could set the state up for a costly legal battle over the US Supreme Court decision that legalized the procedure.

North Dakota’s Senate approved two antiabortion bills on Friday, one banning abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy and another prohibiting the procedure because of genetic defects such as Down syndrome. If the governor signs the measures, North Dakota would be the only state with those laws.

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Supporters said their goal is to challenge the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until a fetus is considered viable, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.

‘‘It’s a good day for babies,’’ said Representative Bette Grande, a Republican from Fargo who introduced both bills. The state’s only abortion clinic is in Fargo, and abortion-rights advocates say the measures are meant to shut it.

Governor Jack Dalrymple has not said anything to indicate he will not approve the measures.

Opponents, who have promised legal challenges to both measures if they become law, urged Dalrymple to veto the bills.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the measures extreme, saying they would make North Dakota “the first state in the nation to ban most abortions.”

“In America, no woman, no matter where she lives, should be denied the ability to make this deeply personal decision,” said ACLU executive director Anthony Romero.

Arkansas passed a 12-week ban this month that prohibits most abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected using an abdominal ultrasound. That ban is scheduled to take effect 90 days after the Arkansas Legislature adjourns.

North Dakota’s measure doesn’t specify how a fetal heartbeat would be detected. Doctors performing an abortion after a heartbeat is detected could face a felony charge punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Women would not face charges.

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