U.S. states may have passed a flood of abortion restrictions over the past two years, but North Dakota is showing "a whole new level of extremism" right now, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said on Friday.
In just two months, North Dakota lawmakers have voted for a 20-week ban on abortions, a 6-week ban on abortions and a ban on abortions in cases of genetic disorders, and on Friday, the state House of Representatives voted to send to the voters a fetal personhood amendment, which would ban abortion entirely. Richards said she is shocked that the state went this far after voters nationwide seemed to reject anti-abortion policy in the 2012 elections.
"It's almost like the November elections didn't happen," she told HuffPost in a phone interview. "Getting rid of women's health care access is bad policy and bad politics. But we're seeing, unfortunately, in some of these state legislatures what is the residual impact of the tea party sweep in 2010. These politicians don't care about women or whether these matters are on the minds of the American people."
The North Dakota personhood amendment, which will next appear on the November 2014 ballot, would ban abortion at all stages of fetal development and even in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is in danger. Richards warned there could soon be states where abortion is not available under any circumstances.
"The thing that's incredible to me -- North Dakota being case in point -- is the thought that women's rights in this country depend on their ZIP code," Richards said. "There are now states where it's not safe to be a woman. The whole danger of this move to say that these are just issues to be decided at state level is that somehow women and their doctors are going to be criminals in some states and have rights in others."
Richards noted that several bills have already been introduced in Congress this year to stop all federal funding of Planned Parenthood, but she added those bills can backfire politically on Republicans.
"Every action has a reaction," she said. "Frankly, every time they go after Planned Parenthood in Congress, we gain membership and support."