BISMARCK (AP) - An organizer of a petition drive to bring three of North Dakota's strict new abortion laws to a public vote says his group plans to take the issue to the state Supreme Court after falling short of their signature goals.
Organizer Gary Hangsleben said Monday that each of the petitions fell short of the necessary 13,452 signatures needed by midnight to qualify for a statewide vote. Hangsleben asked Secretary of State Al Jaeger for a 90-day extension, but Jaeger denied that request, saying he did not have the authority to do so.
Hangsleben, a truck driver from Grand Forks, said his group is preparing to file a brief with the state Supreme Court that he says will give them more time to gather signatures.
"We believe that, well it'll probably take several months for the court to rule on it, so we will get the three-month extension by having a court injunction," he said.
One of the measures Hangsleben is seeking to put up for a vote would ban abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy - that's when a fetal heartbeat can first be detected and before some women know they are pregnant. Another measure would prohibit women from having an abortion because a fetus has a genetic defect, such as Down syndrome. The third would require a doctor who performs abortions to be a physician with hospital-admitting privileges.
Abortion-rights advocates did not support the petitions, saying a courtroom was the best venue in which to fight the new laws. The groups have promised a legal fight to block the restrictions before they take effect Aug. 1.