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Booming North Dakota may avoid legal costs of defending abortion ban

Conservative non-profits may pick up the tab for an inevitable court fight over the nation’s toughest anti-abortion measures.
/ Source: Martin Bashir

Conservative non-profits may pick up the tab for an inevitable court fight over the nation’s toughest anti-abortion measures.

You might think that North Dakota–with its booming economy and rapid population growth–would have better things to do with its public resources than waste them on a highly partisan, probably doomed legal campaign to overturn the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling that made abortion legal in the United States.

But then again, enacting the nation’s most severe anti-abortion laws–and defending them against the various legal challenges they were designed to provoke–may not cost the state of North Dakota a dime.

It’s all thanks to the Liberty Counsel, a non-profit conservative-litigation group that supports challenges to Roe v. Wade. Mat Stavers, the chairman of Liberty Counsel, extended his support before North Dakota’s governor signed the legislation this week:

Cost should not be a part of Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s decision to sign or veto bills… Liberty Counsel will defend these laws pro bono. No rights are more fundamental than the right to life. Without life, all other rights are irrelevant.

And that’s not all. According to state Sen. Margaret Sitte, a Republican who served as the primary sponsor of a so-called “personhood” resolution like the one voters in Mississippi rejected last year, the Liberty Counsel may not be the only benefactor of North Dakota’s anti-abortion laws. Democracy Now! recently aired a clip of Sitte making the following statement on a Fargo-Grand Forks television stations:

There are lots of organizations who have lined up and said they will defend the state in these life bills. There’s the Liberty Counsel, Thomas More law society. Many organizations are standing ready to join with our attorney general and they have sent us emails saying they will bear the entire cost to defend these bills.

That should come as good news to Gov. Dalrymple, who told the Associated Press that he had asked the legislature to create a “litigation fund” in support of the laws he signed this week. According to the AP, Dalrymple wasn’t sure how much it would cost to defend the new laws, but money, he said, wasn’t the issue.

Guest host Karen Finney discussed the North Dakota anti-abortion laws and their role in the broader legal campaign against Roe v. Wade with Krystal Ball, co-host of The Cycle, and Caitlin Borgmann, law professor at City University of New York. You can watch their discussion here: