Letter: North Dakota deserves better from its attorney general
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenejhem has chosen to appeal a federal court ruling that declared the state’s fetal heartbeat abortion statute unconstitutional. His choice is not based on a devotion to the law, because the case is unwinnable. His choice is not based on fiscal responsibility, because the case will cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Rather, his choice is based on party politics, and nothing more. North Dakotans deserve better from their attorney general.
Stenejhem was not fiscally conservative in this litigation. He farmed out the actual litigation to private law firms. With fees running upwards of $175 per hour, these firms have made tens of thousands of dollars off North Dakota taxpayers. The so-called expert witnesses that the firms hired to testify in court have also profited handsomely. According to U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland, these witnesses, none of whom are actually North Dakotans, “presented no reliable medical evidence to justify the passage of this troubling law.” Their testimonies didn’t change the outcome of the case one bit. Even so, they charged $300 per hour to North Dakota taxpayers. North Dakotans deserve an attorney general who is fiscally responsible.
Stenejhem knew all along that the court would declare the law unconstitutional. Stenejhem himself has conceded that “Judge Hovland’s ruling was not unexpected, and is understandable given controlling case law.” Judge Hovland, a George W. Bush appointee, put aside his personal opinions and simply stated that the statute “cannot withstand a constitutional challenge.” North Dakotans deserve an attorney general who is devoted to the law, not party politics.
Stenejhem has now decided to appeal the court’s ruling, without considering its cost, its success, or its ramifications. So, let’s be straight forward about the ramifications of this law. This law will mean that a law enforcement officer will have to start a formal investigation for every single woman who has a miscarriage. It means that after an officer is done interviewing these women, their families, their friends, and potentially their doctors, they will forward that information to a state’s attorney to review. Given that violent crime in North Dakota has gone up eight times that of the nation, does this seem like a responsible use of our already overburdened law enforcement? Perhaps we should focus our law enforcement’s efforts on stopping sex slavery, heroin and methamphetamine drug trafficking, armed robberies, and murders. North Dakota deserves an attorney general who will use resources efficiently and wisely.
North Dakota needs an impartial attorney general who puts the law and the taxpayers’ interests ahead of personal opinions and party politics. After 14 years in office, North Dakotans deserve, and need, a new attorney general.
Kiara Kraus-Parr, candidate for attorney general of North Dakota