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When Planned Parenthood Attacks: How a Pro-Life Mom and State Rep. Lost Her Seat Serving North Dakota

In 2013, I felt it was the right time for North Dakota to consider this bill based on when a baby's heartbeat can be detected.

Bound4LIFE: In the State House, the North Dakota Human Heartbeat Protection Act passed by a 63-28 vote and in the Senate 26-17. How did the pro-life side achieve those overwhelming majorities?

Bette Grande: It was an awesome thing. It did not require heavy lobbying by any means. Most people who were elected in both House and Senate already knew where they stood on life issues. For them, this Heartbeat bill was a commonsense issue: we know that stopping a heart ends life.

Prayer certainly played a role in the passage of this bill. I do nothing in life without prayer. Throughout that legislative session, as in previous ones, prayer teams were in place.

When we were on the House floor for the debate, the first bill heard that afternoon was the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act which prohibits sex-selective abortions.

The other side was baiting the pro-life legislators, to say something we would regret saying. When colleagues asked what I was going to say, and if they should make a floor speech, I told them I didn't think we needed to say anything in the debate other than describing the policy before us.

The legislator who carried the prenatal bill explained the policy, and talked passionately about his feelings on behalf of pre-born babies. The pro-abortion side got up and said their piece. People knew where they stood. So we proceeded to the vote for the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, and it went overwhelmingly pro-life.

The next bill up was the Heartbeat bill, which I had authored. Another legislator got up who was carrying the bill from the committee. He gave a floor speech describing the bill and sat down. The Speaker called for debate. No one said anything for several moments.

On both bills, the pro-abortion side wanted me to stand up and say something. They so badly wanted to get me on the record saying something they felt they could use against me. I didn't need to say anything. It was already spoken.

"Seeing none," the Speaker said and then it proceeded to the vote. The bill passed by over two-thirds majority, with no protest. At that point, I remember turning to my husband and saying, "The mouths of lions have been shut in this lions' den." That is truly how the room felt.

When the bill went on to the State Senate, the exact same thing happened. The prenatal bill came up first, the other side tried to argue against it, and the Senate voted.

The Heartbeat bill was next. One Senator from the relevant committee introduced it, he explained the policy and sat down. The President of the Senate called for debate. There was silence.

Again, it passed by nearly two-thirds vote. It was amazing. You could feel a hush come over the room.

Bound4LIFE: Governor Jack Dalrymple signed the bill. Yet Planned Parenthood and its allies quickly filed a lawsuit to keep it from going into effect. Did you expect that?

Bette Grande: They had threatened that from the day I introduced the bill. It was nothing new. I had been used to their lawsuits since 2009; every policy we introduced on life issues, they sued to keep it from going into effect.

Bound4LIFE: A similar bill, based on detecting a baby's heartbeat, passed in Arkansas only a month apart from the North Dakota bill. Was there contact with legislators there?

Bette Grande: I didn't work with anyone outside of North Dakota on the Heartbeat bill. To my knowledge, there was no contact with legislators in Arkansas.

I did not do anything but write the bill, let God do the work and let the people come. I did not recruit anyone or anything similar; it just came to be on the merits of the issue.

Both the Arkansas and North Dakota Heartbeat laws were challenged by Planned Parenthood affiliates in court, but were heard separately because of the differences. Arkansas put the 12-week marker in their law, whereas the North Dakota bill is based strictly on the medical term "heartbeat."

Some in the press have called the North Dakota law "a possible six-week ban on abortion." There is no such wording in the legislation. We were clear on that when we wrote it, because 40 years ago they never knew that a baby's heartbeat was detectable at six weeks.

Why put in a time-bound piece to this policy? Medical terminology is what leads the North Dakota policy. It's more appropriate to allow the new knowledge our society is gaining about life in the womb to be the marker, rather than locking it into a specific week marker or some forced trimester model.

At one time, viability was defined as 28 weeks. Now with medical advances we see children surviving at 21 weeks. "Heartbeat" is critically important terminology; it isn't locked in to a certain week marker.

Bound4LIFE: Soon your name, as the author of the Heartbeat bill, was in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Politico… How did you handle the media frenzy?

Bette Grande: A picture of me and my husband even ended up in the Australian Times! Really all the attention on me came from an Associated Press story that released shortly after the bill was enacted.

When the Governor signed the bill and the press found out about it right away, I was in an appropriations hearing and unaware of all the press frenzy. My husband sent a text message: Have you seen all this stuff? And I hadn't.

Apparently three reporters were waiting to speak to me. I was voting on important bills and deep into state budget issues, which was my job. The citizens of my district entrusted me to legislate and to do the detailed work of appropriations.

When we took a break, I went out to speak to the press. The AP reporter spoke first, saying, "I'll bet you're pretty proud of yourself – getting these bills passed and the Governor signing them."

His words surprised me. It hit to my soul. Pretty proud of yourself. As a Christian woman, a woman of faith, for someone to say that set me back a step. I thought, Pride? Lord, I pray that is not me.

What came out of my mouth in response was: "No, it's a great day for babies." They used that quote prominently in the story, to get people to read the article. It snowballed from there to a national story.

Some of these media outlets did call and ask for interviews, to their credit. I did as many as I could. But when we're in the middle of a legislative session and I serve in

Appropriations, I did not have time to spend a day doing interviews. If the media outlet could not arrange for 7am or a late afternoon, I was not available.

After 10 years on staff at The Heritage Foundation and Focus on the Family, Josh M. Shepherd currently serves in communications at Bound4LIFE International – a faith-based pro-life group. Reprinted with permission from Bound4LIFE.

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