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Image of the North Dakota state capitol building with text: "Key fights from North Dakota's 2021 Legislative Session"

Now that North Dakota’s 2021 legislative session has come to a close, we’re looking back on the issues and fights that we faced this year. While North Dakota continued battling the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-sexual and reproductive health legislators chose to target reproductive health care, LGBTQ+ rights, and academic freedom. 

This legislative session we sustained attacks to equal rights and essential health care—and we showed up alongside supporters and organizations to protect the rights and wellbeing of all North Dakotans. 

Here are some of our key takeaways from the 2021 North Dakota legislative session.

Several anti-abortion bills were defeated in the Legislature

Anti-abortion politicians introduced several egregious bills this session to limit access to abortion and criminalize abortion care. HB 1313, one of the most extreme anti-abortion bills introduced in the country, would have criminalized abortion and included the possibility of life in prison without parole for anyone who performs an abortion. 

Legislators also tried to mandate geographic barriers for abortion clinics by proposing SB 2323—an unjustified bill that would only stigmatize abortion providers and patients, and seek to put abortion care out of reach for the women who need it. 

Thanks to unrelenting advocacy from champions of reproductive freedom, both HB 1313 and SB 2323 were defeated.

Anti-abortion legislators also proposed SB 2060, a bill that would allow the board to deny an application for a chiropractor’s license simply because the applicant was previously “engaged in the practice of abortion.” We are disappointed that the North Dakota legislature passed this bill. Whether a person has been involved in abortion care should have no bearing on their ability to serve as a qualified chiropractor. 

The Legislature rolled back North Dakota’s Equal Rights Amendment

This session, the House and Senate passed a resolution to rescind North Dakota’s 1975 ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). We are disappointed to see North Dakota politicians working to undermine progress in our state and country by targeting the ERA. Thank you to North Dakota Women’s Network for fighting this decision and for demonstrating to legislators that weakening the ERA does not represent the will of North Dakotans.

Legislators targeted trans athletes with a discriminatory bill

Across the country, state legislators have introduced a slew of discriminatory bills that target transgender youth. In North Dakota, politicians proposed HB 1298, a harmful and unnecessary bill that would have excluded transgender students in North Dakota’s schools from participating in sports teams that align with their gender identity. 

Across the state, individuals and organizations—including the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition—spoke out against this blatantly discriminatory bill and stood up to protect trans youth in our state. Although HB 1298 passed in the legislature, Governor Burgum listened to the will of North Dakotans and vetoed the bill.

North Dakota politicians attacked academic freedom and sex ed

SB 2030 was originally designed to provide scholarships for college students throughout North Dakota. Then, Senator Janne Myrdal decided to play politics with student scholarships by adding a harmful provision based on her own personal views against sexual and reproductive health. This provision targets North Dakota State University’s nearly decade-long partnership with Planned Parenthood to deliver voluntary, age-appropriate sex education to hundreds of North Dakotans.

North Dakota legislators passed this academic gag rule that disproportionately restricts research fields led by women, internship opportunities, and public access to vital sex education. While Governor Burgum vetoed an especially egregious provision of the bill that would have penalized faculty who violate this new prohibition, he bowed to political pressure and signed SB 2030 into law.

Despite this blatant political overreach, advocates from across the state called, emailed, and spoke up to protect academic freedom and sex education. Thank you to those of you who stood with Planned Parenthood and advocated for access to sex education in our state. We will continue doing all we can so that Planned Parenthood can offer crucial health education programs to North Dakotans.

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