North Dakota lawmakers aim to outlaw all abortions

North Dakota legislators aimed to outlaw all abortions Friday by passing a law that asks voters to amend the state constitution to define life as beginning at conception.

If passed, the amendment would grant full legal protection to embryos and fetuses and could outlaw some forms of birth control, stem cell research and possibly in vitro fertilization.

It would allow for no exceptions in the case of rape, incest or the life of the mother.

A similar so-called "personhood" measure was rejected by 55 percent of voters in the Bible Belt state of Mississippi in 2011.

If North Dakota's largely rural voters were to accept the measure it would spark a legal battle that supporters hope could overturn the landmark Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion in 1973.

The court refused to review the "Roe versus Wade" decision legalizing abortion at the end of October, turning away a petition on an amendment to Oklahoma's state constitution that would have granted "personhood" to embryos.

Other cases dealing with abortion are expected to come before the court in the coming months as more states pass laws that place greater restrictions on the procedure.

Oklahoma officials have also asked the court to review a state law that limits the use of an abortion pill, RU-486, which a state judge ruled was unconstitutional.

North Dakota legislators have recently passed two other bill restricting abortion, which have yet to be signed by the state's Republican governor.

One would prohibit abortion after a "detectable heartbeat" -- around six weeks after conception.

The other would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, which opponents say is a veiled attempt to shut down the state's only abortion clinic.