In 1995 Wayne Stenehjem Voted For Taxpayer Funding Of Abortions In Cases Of Rape Or Incest

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, center, speaks at the Capitol in Bismarck. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune

A group calling itself Common Sense North Dakota is running a radio ad with a tiny budget (less than $500 according to FCC disclosures) accusing Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who is currently running for governor, of voting in favor of taxpayer funded abortions in 1995.

You can listen to the full ad below. A few of you readers have heard the ad and asked me about the vote. It really did happen, though the truth of it is a bit more complicated.

The legislation was SB2539, introduced by Senator Gary Nelson and Representative John Dorso, both Republicans with pro-life records and the majority leaders in their respective chambers.

You can read the bill’s language, as well as its vote history, right here. Here’s the relevant text of the legislation:

sb2359

The bill was introduced late in the session, as you can see in the history, coming out of the delayed bills committee. It was in response to a court ruling finding that North Dakota’s laws were out of compliance with federal Medicaid policy which required that public funding for abortions be available not just in cases where the mother’s life was threatened but in instances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest.

“In addition, by the end of 1994, all but eight states (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah) were in compliance with federal policy mandating Medicaid coverage of abortions not only when pregnancy endangers the life of the woman, but also in cases of rape and incest,” the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute reports. “These changes came about as states implemented Congressional modifications of the federal Hyde Amendment that slightly expanded abortion coverage in 1993. Eight separate federal court decisions on this issue have universally ordered compliance.”

The 1995 bill was about bringing North Dakota into compliance, which explains why two pro-life majority leaders introduced the bill.

Stenehjem was among those voting in favor of the legislation in the Senate chamber where it passed 29-19.

sb2359vote

The bill ultimately failed in the House on a 27-68 vote.

Housevote

If you’re confused by all the Stenehjem’s in those roll calls, the one who voted against the bill in the Senate was Wayne’s brother Bob who passed away a few years ago. The one who was absent for the vote in the House was Wayne’s other brother Allan.

So, anyway, yes Wayne Stenehjem voted to provide public funding for abortion in North Dakota, but only in instances of rape and incest which is actually consistent with his abortion position today. Stenehjem has said he is pro-life but but supports exceptions for the life of the mother/rape/incest.

Doug Burgum, one of two other candidates vying for the NDGOP gubernatorial nomination alongside Stenehjem, has largely tried to avoid the abortion issue saying it’s not a priority for his campaign. Paul Sorum, the third candidate in the race, touts himself as the only truly socially conservative candidate in the race.

On the Democratic side, state Rep. Marvin Nelson has described himself as generally pro-life, though since beginning his gubernatorial campaign he says he regrets a vote for a bill banning abortions after a heartbeat can be detected.

For the Libertarians, it’s not clear what position their candidate Marty Riske has on abortion, and his website seems to be offline.

Here’s the ad:

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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