North Dakota becomes third state to ban abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation

Kristin Lam

North Dakota's Republican governor on Wednesday signed a bill outlawing a second-trimester abortion procedure, joining two others states banning a practice known as dilation and evacuation.

As similar laws in eight additional states face legal challenges, North Dakota's legislation makes it a crime for doctors to use instruments such as clamps, scissors and forceps to remove the fetus from the womb during the second trimester. 

Last month, the GOP-led state legislature easily passed the bill, which includes the non-medical term “human dismemberment abortion." 

Women getting the procedure would not be charged, but doctors performing it would face a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. An exception exists for medical emergencies.

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The procedure has not been reported in North Dakota since 2015, when eight were performed, according to state health department data. 

Abortion-rights groups say the law unconstitutionally interferes with private medical decisions.

Laws in Mississippi and West Virginia also ban the procedure, while legal challenges have put similar laws on hold in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.

The director of North Dakota's sole abortion provider, Tammi Kromenaker of the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, said her facility's lawyers would wait for a decision in the Arkansas case before possibly suing. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes North Dakota, heard arguments about a judge blocking Arkansas from enforcing its law in December. 

Wednesday's signing marked Gov. Doug Burgum's second abortion measure.

Burgum previously said he would have supported abortion laws North Dakota passed in 2013, including one that would have banned abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. 

After the state's only abortion clinic sued, the law never went into effect. North Dakota spent $326,000 to unsuccessfully defend the law and paid the clinic $245,000 in a settlement.

Contributing: The Associated Press