A campaign to force a statewide vote on three North Dakota anti-abortion laws is falling short.
Opponents of the abortion bills have been trying to gather at least 13,500 signatures on three separate petitions to put the measures to a vote. They have a deadline of midnight tonight for turning in their paperwork.
The chairman of the referendum campaign said Monday the petitions don’t have enough signatures. He asked Secretary of State Al Jaeger for more time to gather names.
Jaeger says he doesn’t have authority to extend the deadline.
The state Constitution allows North Dakotans to put bills approved by the Legislature on the ballot for possible repeal. The constitution specifies that opponents of any legislative bill have 90 days to get the needed petition signatures. The clock starts running when the bill is filed with the secretary of state.
All three anti-abortion bills were filed with Jaeger’s office on March 26. The 90-day deadline arrives at midnight Monday, June 24th.
One of the bills prohibits abortion if a fetus has a detectable heartbeat. That can come as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Another bill prohibits abortions only for reasons of sex selection or fetal genetic problems. The third bill imposes new regulations on doctors who perform abortions in North Dakota.
Abortion rights groups say they’ll be challenging the measures in court.