North Dakota university system challenges law that bans partnerships with abortion providers
North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott sent the Senate Bill 2030 request for review on May 10.
The NDSU Faculty Senate also asked Hagerott to seek legal advice from Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem in the hopes of determining the impacts and constitutionality of the law. Educators called the legislation a threat to academic freedom, which is protected by state law.
Moreover, the vague wording and the broad scope of the language contained in the law will instill a climate of insecurity and fear of reprisals, as researchers try to understand how to comply with its ramifications, said the Senate of the Faculty in a letter of May 11.
The bill was originally intended to allocate money to the Challenge Fund, a matching grant program that provides $ 1 in public funding for every $ 2 in private donations for the UND and NDSU.
Senator Janne Myrdal, R-Edinburg, added an amendment that prevents schools from receiving these funds if they partner with a group that performs or promotes abortion, unless it saves a woman’s life.
Governor Doug Burgum signed the bill, but not before removing the criminal penalties from the law. He also vetoed the section that would have penalized one of the state’s 11 colleges and universities by $ 2.8 million if they partnered with an abortion provider.
Myrdal’s amendment clarifies previous anti-abortion legislation passed in 2011, Myrdal told the Forum on Thursday, May 20. This law prevents any state agency from funding or supporting programs that endorse abortion rather than normal childbirth.
The NDSU had previously refused requests from Myrdal and others to end its partnership with Planned Parenthood by presenting a workshop to help train teachers on how to talk with students about sex. The school received federal funding of $ 250,000 each year starting in 2017, with the goal of preventing unplanned pregnancies. This partnership will not be renewed this year.
NDSU Faculty Senate Speaker Florin Salajan said lawmakers enacted the abortion law without considering how it restricted academic freedom.
According to the letter from the Faculty’s Senate, several areas could be affected, from studying in vitro fertilization to partnering with pharmaceutical companies if they manufacture drugs that induce abortion or emergency contraceptives. Salajan also questioned whether the law could open the door to banning partnerships or programs on other topics lawmakers don’t like, such as climate change.
“It’s confusing for the teachers because we have to ask ourselves: where do you draw the line and who is going to do the police work to see that these courses or that these materials comply with the law?” he said.
With the new law, professors who fear retaliation or interference can transfer their grants and research to another state, Salajan added.
Myrdal said educators had never proven that the amendment limited academic freedom. She took issue with arguments that the law could lead to the ban on other topics, noting that the law aims to prohibit partnerships with abortion providers, not to prohibit discussion of a topic.
“They don’t like the bill,” she said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Myrdal said she was disappointed with the university system for challenging the law, but is confident Stenehjem will uphold it.
“The citizens of North Dakota have elected lawmakers who believe in certain things, and they don’t want their money going to an abortion provider,” she said.