Gov. Jack Dalrymple faces a difficult choice.
Legislators sent him two bills this past week that would give North Dakota the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. The bills would ban abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, and prohibit women from having abortions based on the fetus' gender or because a fetus has a genetic defect.
If the governor signs the bills, the state will no doubt find itself in a long, costly legal fight over the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 ruling that legalized abortion.
If Dalrymple vetoes the bills, there is likely enough support in the Republican-controlled Legislature to override the governor's veto anyway.
Opponents of the measures say the governor shouldn't sign the bills at least partially because of the cost involved in the subsequent legal fight, a fight they say the state is almost sure to lose. Democrats also oppose more restrictions on abortions in North Dakota, and argue that the laws are aimed at putting the state's lone abortion clinic out of business.
Supporters of stricter abortion laws in North Dakota argue that it's time for the state to take a stand against abortion, and that the cost of a legal defense shouldn't be reason enough for Dalrymple to veto the legislation.
There is perhaps no issue more divisive in North Dakota and the nation than abortion. Dalrymple's decision certainly won't end that debate in North Dakota, no matter what he decides. Given the enormity of the changes being proposed, perhaps this divisive issue should be decided by North?Dakota voters in the privacy of the polling booth instead of by a small minority of the state's residents working in the Legislature.