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Burgum to decide on ‘Abortion Amendment’ for higher ed grants

Gov. Doug Burgum, R-N.D.
Gov. Doug Burgum, R-N.D.(KFYR-TV)
Published: Apr. 26, 2021 at 5:20 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Gov. Doug Burgum, R-N.D., will soon have to decide the fate of millions of dollars in higher education funding. The state legislature passed a bill offering North Dakota colleges grants totaling more than $11 million.

However, if the schools pay for curriculum from Planned Parenthood or any abortion provider, the school no longer qualifies for the grants.

When the bill was first introduced months ago, it was just a higher education grant program. But when lawmakers looked into who some schools were partnering with, they said it was time to make some new rules.

According to some senators, a grant program for college students was hijacked.

The total budget was cut from $20 million to $11 million, and lawmakers added an amendment saying state money can’t be used if the curriculum is provided by an abortion provider.

“Nobody in this scholarship program is going to be hurt. This sounds like the whole world is going to fall apart. It’s not if a certain institution just decides that that partnership is over,” Sen. Janne Myrdal, R-Edinburg, said.

But that might not be the case.

The bill, as written would charge college staff members with 30 days in jail or a $1,500 fine if they are caught breaking this law.

“There was a target in these amendments, but in speaking with universities and speaking with students, we’re worried this is very far reaching and a web that even lawmakers and the universities themselves don’t know how far it reaches,” Kristie Wolff of the North Dakota Women’s Network said.

And the universities are responding to those targets.

In the minutes leading up to the vote, the North Dakota University System sent a memo to lawmakers arguing against the amendment.

The memo said, “The state law would place campuses in the very difficult position of demonstrating that they meet the requirements of accreditation.”

It went on to say the bill would also restrict internships and faculty research because they also rely on grants.

Now the bill goes to the governor’s desk where he can approve, veto, or use a “line item” veto.

If he goes with the line item veto, Burgum could cross out the sections about not using it to fund sexual education while keeping the rest of the bill intact.

This would allow schools to use the money as though the abortion amendment was never there.

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