North Dakota on Monday adopted one of the nation's strictest anti-abortion laws as Gov. Doug Burgum signed legislation banning the procedure throughout pregnancy, with slim exceptions up to six weeks’ gestation. In those early weeks, abortion would be allowed only in cases of rape, incest or medical emergency, such as ectopic pregnancy, reports the Associated Press. “This bill clarifies and refines existing state law ... and reaffirms North Dakota as a pro-life state,” said Burgum, a Republican. Last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide has triggered multiple state laws banning or restricting the procedure. Many were met with legal challenges. Bans on abortion at all stages of pregnancy are in place in at least 13 states and on hold in others because of court injunctions. On the other side, Democratic governors in at least 20 states this year launched a network intended to strengthen abortion access and shifted regulatory powers over the procedure to state governments.
The North Dakota law is designed to take effect immediately, but last month the state Supreme Court blocked a previous ban while a lawsuit over its constitutionality proceeds. Lawmakers said they intended to pass the latest bill as a message to the state’s high court signaling that the people of North Dakota want to restrict abortion. Supporters have said the measure signed Monday protects all human life. Opponents contend it will have dire consequences for women and girls. North Dakota no longer has abortion clinics. Last summer, the state’s only facility, the Red River Women’s Clinic, shut its doors in Fargo and moved operations a short distance across the border to Moorhead, Mn., where abortion remains legal.