Only some social issues are divisive in the Plains states, or so implies the New York Times. A sour tone permeated Wednesday's front-page story by John Eligon and Erik Eckholm from Fargo on North Dakota's strict new abortion laws, which ban abortions based on sex or disability and forbid abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detectable: "New Laws Ban Most Abortions in North Dakota ." Yet Colorado's passage of civil unions legislation for gay couples was celebrated with no dissenting voices.
And alhough the quotes from sources pro and con were balanced, with two people quoted in favor, two against, and one classified as neutral, the two pro-life sources were the last two quoted, in paragraphs 26 and 29-30 of the 31-paragraph story.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota approved the nation’s toughest abortion restrictions on Tuesday, signing into law a measure that would ban nearly all abortions and inviting a legal showdown over just how much states can limit access to the procedure.
Mr. Dalrymple, a Republican, signed three bills passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in Bismarck. The most far-reaching law forbids abortion once a fetal heartbeat is “detectable,” which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Fetal heartbeats are detectable at that stage of pregnancy using a transvaginal ultrasound.
Most legal scholars have said the law would violate the Supreme Court’s finding in Roe v. Wade that abortions were permitted until the fetus was viable outside the womb, generally around 24 weeks. Even some leaders of the anti-abortion movement nationally have predicted that laws banning abortion so early in pregnancy are virtually certain to be declared unconstitutional by federal courts.
The Times buried this compassionate angle, which one would hope would resonate among liberal feminists and providers for the handicapped.
He also signed a third law that would prevent abortion in cases of gender preference or -- the first of its kind in the nation -- genetic defects, like Down syndrome.
An "abortion-rights advocate" Caitlin Borgmann, was quoted citing the "heartbeat laws" as proof that “this extreme wing of the movement has definitely gained momentum."
Timescast host Marcus Mabry brought in Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards  (both pictured) to discuss the issue in a friendly and unchallenging interview Tuesday.
Compare the negative reaction to North Dakota's move to the paper's happiness over Colorado passing civil unions for gay couples, with Jack Healy describing it as "a jubilant -- if almost unreal -- moment" in the March 22 edition (the print version was shorter). Three people were quoted in favor of the ruling, zero against.
With a stroke of the governor’s pen, Colorado on Thursday legalized civil unions for same-sex couples, a major shift for a Western state where voters outlawed same-sex marriages in 2006.
The law makes Colorado the 18th state to allow gay marriage or some form of same-sex union, and its signing comes days before the Supreme Court hears two major cases on marriage equality.
For many gay Coloradans, it was a jubilant -- if almost unreal -- moment.
“When we started fighting for it, this was a foregone conclusion that it wasn’t going to happen,” said Jerry Cunningham, the publisher of the magazine Out Front Colorado. “It’s kind of amazing. It’s creating an awareness that we can have relationships. It validates it and legitimizes it, and says it’s O.K.”
Across Colorado, couples are already making plans. Denver’s fourth annual gay and lesbian wedding expo is being held at the end of April (“Begin planning your own dream civil union!”) and the county clerks in Denver and Boulder are planning to open their offices at midnight on May 1 -- when the law takes effect -- to hand out the first civil union licenses.