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North Dakota law requires patients hear fetus before getting an abortion

FARGO - Women seeking an abortion in the state of North Dakota must first hear specific, state-mandated language and are required to get a chance to see, and in some cases hear, their fetus before the procedure is performed.

State law requires a provider to tell the patient the name of the doctor who will provide the abortion, about how far along she will be at the time of her abortion and that if she were to continue the pregnancy, medical assistance benefits may be available to her for prenatal care, childbirth and care after delivery.

The provider also must tell her that her sexual partner is legally required to pay child support even if he offered to pay for the abortion.

And patients must be told that "North Dakota law defines abortion as terminating the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being."

Red River Women's Clinic Director Tammi Kromenaker said the requirement to hear how the state defines abortion applies even in cases in which a doctor has determined that the life of the mother would be at risk were she to carry the fetus to term.

Additionally, state law also requires providers to tell the patient she is free to withhold or withdraw her consent to the abortion at any time without affecting her right to future care or treatment and without the loss of any state or federally funded benefits to which she might be otherwise entitled.

They also must explain the rare risks of both medicinal and surgical abortions.

The provider must offer the patient a chance to see the fetus on an ultrasound 24 hours before the procedure is scheduled, and if they have the equipment to do so, to hear the heartbeat.

Kromenaker said the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo - the only abortion clinic in North Dakota - doesn't have the equipment to listen to fetal heartbeats.

Providers are also required to give the patient booklets printed by the state which list agencies that offer alternatives to abortion and that describe fetal development.

"We can't just offer them the booklets, we have to actually give them to her," said Kromenaker.