Abortion opponents in North Dakota have one-upped their peers in Arkansas. Less than two weeks after the latter state banned abortions after 12 weeks, North Dakota lawmakers approved a ban after six weeks, reports the Bismarck Tribune. They also voted to outlaw abortions when a genetic defect is discovered—Down syndrome, for example—or when parents don't like the sex of their fetus. Gov. Jack Dalrymple hasn't said whether he will sign the measures, but proponents have enough votes to override even if he vetoes them, reports AP. Which means it's a safe bet that the state will soon have the strictest abortion laws in the nation.
Lawmakers picked six weeks because that's when a heartbeat can be detected by transvaginal ultrasound, the intrusive procedure that set off controversy in Virginia last year, reports the New York Times. Arkansas picked 12 weeks because a heartbeat can be detected with an abdominal ultrasound at that point. Assuming the North Dakota bills become law, expect legal challenges to follow. No other state, for example, has a law that outlaws abortions over a genetic defect. Of the 1,247 abortions performed in the state in 2011, 75% would be illegal under the new legislation, according to a research group that backs abortion rights. That could well mean that the state's only abortion clinic, in Fargo, would have to close its doors. (Read more North Dakota stories.)