Language of N.D. abortion petitions approved; petitioners can gather signatures
GRAND FORKS -- A group of local petitioners received the official go-ahead Friday from North Dakota's secretary of state to begin collecting signatures to put three recently passed anti-abortion laws to a statewide vote.
The chairman of the committee, Gary Hangsleben, 67, said he received approval from Secretary of State Al Jaeger shortly before 5 p.m. Friday. Jaeger received the petitions April 2 and has since been improving the petitions' language with the cooperation of the committee.
"We've had some minor corrections," Hangsleben said. "I'm sure (the petitions) will be scoured by people on both sides trying to find something to get them thrown out."
The committee now has a little over two months to gather 13,452 signatures for each petition. Hangsleben, who identifies himself as pro-life, said hundreds of volunteers in Grand Forks, Bismarck, Minot and Fargo are ready to begin collecting signatures.
"They've been calling asking when the petitions will get here," he said.
The petitions target three anti-abortion laws signed by Gov. Jack Dalrymple on March 26.
The Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo, the state's only abortion clinic, has come out in opposition of the petitions. The clinic and the Center for Reproductive Rights, a legal advocacy group, are planning to fight the anti-abortion laws in court.
The clinic's director, Tammi Kromenaker, released a statement shortly after the petitions' approval Friday.
"Red River Women's Clinic deeply appreciates the support we have received from the community," she wrote. "However, we do not believe that a ballot referral is the right approach at this time."
The laws would go into effect Aug.1, but if petitioners get enough signatures, they would be put on hold until the next scheduled election.
Unless the governor chooses to hold a special election, the next general election would be June 2014.
The laws would require checking for a fetal heartbeat, ban abortions after 20 weeks, ban abortions based on gender or genetic abnormalities, and create stricter guidelines for physicians performing abortions.