Lawmakers in the North Dakota House passed legislation Wednesday that would block North Dakota State University (NDSU) from providing federal grant funds to a sex education program linked to abortion provider Planned Parenthood.
Legislators in the state have long expressed opposition to the sex ed program because of its ties with Planned Parenthood. As Inforum.com reported, during the 2019 legislative session, 89 North Dakota lawmakers wrote to NDSU to express their disapproval of NDSU’s “public partnership with Planned Parenthood.”
SB 2030, which is a funding bill for the state’s Higher Education Challenge Matching Grant, passed the state House, 66-25, with an amendment that prevents schools from entering into contracts with abortion providers.
The bill now returns to the state Senate, where the original measure blocked federal grant dollars to North Dakota’s ten other colleges and universities as well, unless NDSU terminated its arrangement with Planned Parenthood.
While the House’s amended bill would hold other schools harmless, the legislation would still penalize any institution that contracts with “a person that performs or promotes the performance of an abortion,” by cutting its operating budget by 2.5 percent.
For NDSU, the measure could mean a $2.8 million cut in funding.
Additionally, a school official who enters into a contract with an abortion provider could also face a misdemeanor charge that would draw a 30-day prison sentence and a $1,500 fine.
NDSU officials argued state lawmakers are restricting their academic freedom by preventing them from applying for grants with ties to abortion providers, reported the Grand Forks Herald.
“I understand that this committee and the Legislature may wish to punish NDSU for these academic matters,” NDSU President Dean Bresciani testified regarding the amendment. “However, the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech are fundamental to how NDSU, and all colleges and universities, operate and must be maintained for accreditation purposes.”
Bresciani said he would not bow to political pressure.
No funds of this state or any agency, county, municipality, or any other subdivision thereof and no federal funds passing through the state treasury or a state agency may be used as family planning funds by any person or public or private agency which performs, refers, or encourages abortion.
Myrdal countered to NDSU officials who argued the Planned Parenthood sex education program would teach at-risk youth to avoid pregnancy, “I would wager to say that what they teach is pretty high-risk, and I won’t repeat any of what that organization teaches because it’s pretty R-rated information.”