It’s another we-told-you-so moment. It now appears likely that the winning side in the protracted legal tussle over the restrictive anti-abortion law passed by the 2013 North Dakota Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jack Dalrymple will cost taxpayers significantly more than the more than $320,000 expended as of January. Federal law allows attorneys in civil rights cases to petition a court to award fees and costs accrued while fighting the case. The managers of the state’s lone abortion clinic said they will seek litigation costs from the state.

If the clinic’s attorneys file before the March 25 deadline, they will have a strong case. No less than Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who led the state’s case, said it is “likely” obligated by law to pay the clinic’s legal fees. The amount has not been fully compiled, but if it’s close to what the state spent, the ultimate cost to the state will be at least double that amount.

The record is brutally clear: It was a waste of taxpayers’ money. At every legal point in the case, North Dakota lost. The stated aim of the Republican-led Legislature and the governor - to get the question before the U.S. Supreme Court - was not realized. The court refused to review the case. It never got the high court airing its sponsors wanted.

If the purpose of the doomed law was to make a point about North Dakota’s sentiments on abortion, it was a restatement of the obvious. Again, a waste of time and public money.

It came down to a matter of law - or in the case of North Dakota’s legislation, a violation of law. “Clearly not the smartest thing we’ve ever done,” said Rep. Kathy Hawken, R-Fargo. She was among 10 bipartisan legislators who urged the governor to veto the legislation in 2013. He should have taken their advice.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live