North Dakota lawmakers have passed a bill forcing schools to blare anti-abortion propaganda videos at children.
House Bill 1265 orders school districts to show students a “high-definition ultrasound video, at least three minutes in duration, showing the development of the brain, heart, sex organs, and other vital organs in early fetal development.” The bill’s text does not mention any concern for medical or scientific accuracy, nor principles related to bodily autonomy.
The bill also orders districts to show students “high-quality, computer-generated rendering or animation showing the process of fertilization and every stage of human development inside the uterus, noting significant markers in cell growth and organ development for every week of pregnancy until birth.”
“This is the moment that life begins,” a narrator says in the video, overlaying an animation of a sperm cell approaching an ovum.
The question of when “life begins” is a primary point of contention in the debate surrounding abortion rights; the video Myrdal presents, however, comes from an organization known for making heavily edited hoax videos to take down Planned Parenthood.
At 11 weeks, the video claims a fetus is “playing in the womb” and “moving her body and exploring her environment.” (Recall that the point of viability for a fetus is generally considered to be at 23 or 24 weeks.)
Districts are not required to show this particular video; however the “model” video was the main one grounding debate as the bill was being discussed in the state legislature. The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction told The New Republic that while the bill does not require schools to use a specific video, “this one meets the parameters.”
The bill passed just ahead of a restrictive six-week abortion ban signed Monday, also pushed by Myrdal.
Fargo school board member and state director of Planned Parenthood Katie Christensen noted that the school board of the state’s largest city opposed the bill. Christensen told TNR that experts came together to create the state’s current health education content standards, and that the law “disregards the hard work and expertise of those individuals.”
Myrdal, for her part, said showing the video to students would be “enhancing the understanding of life, enhancing the intrinsic value of human beings.” In February, Myrdal turned her back on a pastor who delivered a prayer to the Senate about the value of people of all backgrounds.
“Creator of the universe and all people therein, you who formed humankind in your image, placing them in this world in all their diversity—differing colors, genders, races, ethnicities, and language. We praise you for the splendor of your creation and the love that motivated your hand on this Earth,” Reverend Dr. Leanne Simmons preached to the Senate. Every floor session begins with a prayer by a religious leader, but only this specific deliverance about the value of all human beings brought Myrdal to protest.
Live Action hailed the bill’s passage as “ensuring all 116,639 students in North Dakota will be shown the truth,” especially in light of “one of the options presented for school district use being Live Action’s cutting-edge educational video Baby Olivia.” Myrdal has said that Live Action is even willing to relinquish its rights to the video, taking its name off the video and providing it for free to the state.
“We know that teachers already manage various tasks every single day and now this is one more requirement added to their plates,” Christensen said, adding that even though Live Action’s video will not be required, the bill still requires some form of video to be shown. “If a district or teacher wants to seek an alternative video, that would require more time and resources to fulfill this unnecessary mandate.”
As can be seen with the litany of copycat bills nationwide antagonistic to abortion rights, labor, LGBTQ people, and more, it’s possible that North Dakota will inspire other state legislatures as well. “With this bill’s passage, it is possible that other states will follow suit,” Live Action celebrated.