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North Dakota

The pre-Roe statutes prohibited performance of an abortion on a pregnant woman unless the procedure was “necessary to preserve her life,”1 and made a woman’s participation in her own abortion a criminal offense (subject to the same exception).2  Pursuant to Roe, these statutes were declared unconstitutional by a federal district court in Leigh v. Olson,3 and were later repealed.4  The statutes would not be revived by a decision overruling Roe v. Wade.  Abortions could be performed for any reason before viability, and for virtually any reason after viability.5


1 N.D. Cent. Code §§ 12-25-01, 12-25-02 (1970).

2 Id. § 12-25-04. No prosecutions were reported under this statute.

3 385 F.Supp. 255 (D. N.D. 1974).

4 1973 N.D. Laws 215, 300, ch 116, § 41.

5 North Dakota’s post-viability statute, see N.D. Cent. Code § 14.02.1-04(3) (1997), would not effectively prohibit post-viability abortions because it allows abortions for mental, as well as physical, health reasons.  As the experience in California demonstrated, mental health exceptions were widely abused.  See People v. Barksdale, 503 P.2d 257, 265 (Cal. 1972) (noting that more than 60,000 abortions were reported in 1970, more than 98% of which were performed for alleged reasons of mental health).


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