North Dakota’s school curriculum aims to prevent abortion

North Dakota schools would be required to show students a high-quality video of how a human fetus develops each week of pregnancy, according to a bill the Senate lawmaker approved in a vote Wednesday.

The 37-9 vote follows the North Dakota Supreme Court’s decision this month that a The state ban on abortion remains blocked while a legal battle over its constitutionality rages on.

“Hopefully, when young people see the beauty of those beginnings, they’ll think twice before running to the abortion clinic,” Sen. Janne Myrdal, an Edinburgh Republican who helped introduce the law, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The bill requires schools to show middle and high school students a high-definition, at least three-minute-long ultrasound video of the development of the brain, heart and other vital organs in early fetal development — along with high-quality animation of the fertilization and human development process in the uterus, “where significant markers of cell growth and organ development are noted for each week of gestation.”

Lawmakers did not specifically mention abortion when debating the bill in the Senate.

Opponents of the bill said they didn’t want to go too far in telling local schools how to teach, while supporters said lawmakers have the right to dictate the curriculum at taxpayer-funded institutions.

“While the video was great and well-intentioned, I think we’re opening the door to something that in the future could expand the scope of how we dictate to local schools,” Republican Sen. Michelle Axtman of Bismarck said in opposition to the bill.

Myrdal countered that state legislatures already mandate many aspects of the school curriculum, including sex and temperance education, Native American history, and anti-bullying programs.

Republican Sen. Michael Wobbema of Valley City said the bill would cost schools no money because the content lawmakers have in mind is already online and free.

The bill was amended in the Senate, so it still needs final approval in the House of Representatives and a signature from the governor to become law.

Heart activity can be detected by ultrasound about six weeks after the onset of pregnancy in cells within an embryo that eventually becomes the heart.

In Georgia, that has one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion policies, The law bans most abortions once there is a “detectable human heartbeat,” effectively banning most abortions before many people know they’re pregnant.

Similar so-called heartbeat measures were considered this year, among other things Ohio, South Carolina And Nebraska.


Trisha Ahmed is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that brings journalists into local newsrooms to cover undercover topics. Follow her on Twitter: @TrishaAhmed15

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