The North Dakota Senate today approved a personhood amendment that backers claim will lead to banning abortions in North Dakota. However, leading pro-life groups are concerned the measure would only entrench legalized abortion further.
The state Senate approved SCR 4009, which states “the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.” The chamber also approved SB 2303 which “ensures that the protection that our criminal laws afford to victims of crimes extends to all human beings born and unborn.”
“We are intending that it be a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, since Scalia said that the Supreme Court is waiting for states to raise a case,” state Sen. Margaret Sitte (R), the sponsor of the personhood initiative, told HuffPost.
While the personhood bill would not likely stand up in court, state lawmakers approved another bill that could be more helpful in closing the state’s only abortion clinic.
The Senate also passed a bill on Thursday that could shut down the North Dakota’s one abortion clinic, the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, by requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. A similar law in Mississippi is currently threatening to close the only clinic in that state because the hospitals near the Jackson clinic are all refusing the applications of doctors who perform abortions.
Sitte said that while the bill could effectively end abortion in North Dakota, she supports the bill because it would protect women who experience medical complications after the procedure. “Yes, this bill could possibly close the abortion clinic [in Fargo],” she said. “I’m not saying that’s the intention of the law. The intention of the law is to ensure that women have adequate health care and the follow-up care that they need.”
The State Senate rejected a second personhood bill introduced by Sitte that would have made it difficult for women to use in vitro fertilization. The bill would have prohibited doctors from disposing of unused embryos after an in vitro cycle, which would force families to pay hundreds of dollars each year to keep the embryos frozen indefinitely. It would have also prevented women with cancer or other illnesses from using a sperm or egg donor to conceive through in vitro fertilization.
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Jennifer Mason, spokesperson for Personhood USA, says SCR 4009 is the first personhood amendment to ever pass the North Dakota Senate.
She indicated the amendment will move next to the House of Representatives, where similar personhood amendments previously passed in 2009 and 2011 but faced hurdles later in the legislative process.
“North Dakota is leading the way for equal rights and protections for all human beings,” she said. “After the struggles to pass life-affirming amendments in the Senate in the past four years, we are very pleased that the North Dakota Senate has chosen to protect all living human beings. This is a historic day in North Dakota.”
“Abortion laws are archaic, based on 40-year-old science and technology,” added Mason. “Our understanding of pregnancy and human development since Roe v Wade has changed dramatically. There is no question now that the unborn child is a human being and a person, who has a right to legal recognition and protection.”
Mason said SCR 4009 and SB 2303 were both written as to ensure that mother and baby are both treated as medical patients, that medical care is not inhibited, and that fertility treatments are not banned.
The personhood amendment probably would not ban abortions and would perhaps give a pro-abortion dominated Supreme Court or lower courts a chance to reaffirm the Roe v. Wade decision that allowed virtually unlimited abortions in 1973.
Some pro-life groups oppose the amendment because they say it will head to the Supreme Court, which will strike it down and add to the pro-Roe v. Wade case law upholding unlimited abortions. Knowing that, they say a better strategy is supporting pro-life Senate candidates and replacing pro-abortion President Barack Obama — paving the way for new Supreme Court justices who could overturn Roe or uphold such an amendment.