North Dakota bill calls hu­man em­bryo ‘per­son’

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY VA­LERIE RICHARDSON

DEN­VER | The North Dakota Leg­is­la­ture is tak­ing cen­ter stage in the abor­tion de­bate as it moves to de­fine a fer­til­ized hu­man egg as a per­son — an ef­fort viewed largely as a ve­hi­cle to chal­lenge the Supreme Court’s 1973 de­ci­sion le­gal­iz­ing abor­tion.

The bill, which could be signed into law within weeks, is an out­growth of the per­son­hood move­ment, which has cat­a­pulted to the fore­front of the pro-life peck­ing or­der in re­cent years with high­pro­file leg­is­la­tion and bal­lot mea­sures.

“I think North Dakota will be on the map to be the first state in re­cent years to mount a le­git­i­mate chal­lenge to Roe v. Wade,” state Rep. Dan Ruby, the Repub­li­can who spon­sored the bill, told the Bis­marck Tri­bune.

The House ap­proved H.B. 1572 by a vote of 51-41, send­ing it to the Se­nate for a vote that could come as early as this week. Both houses are con­trolled by Repub­li­cans, and the gov­er­nor, John Ho­even, is also a Repub­li­can.

“This is ground­break­ing stuff for us in the pro-life move­ment,” said Keith Ma­son, founder of Colorado-based Per­son­hoodUSA, the pro-life group that backed the bill.

At the heart of the per­son­hood move­ment is a state­ment in the Roe v. Wade de­ci­sion, writ­ten by Jus­tice Harry Black­mun, stat­ing that, “[if the] sug­ges­tion of per­son­hood [of the fe­tus] is es­tab­lished, the case, of course, col­lapses, for the fe­tus’ right to life is then guar­an­teed specif­i­cally by the [14th] Amend­ment.”

By defin­ing “per­son­hood” as the mo­ment the egg is fer­til­ized, ad­vo­cates say they can mount a more ef­fec­tive and di­rect chal­lenge to Roe. This year, five states — Alabama, Mary­land, North Dakota, Mon­tana and South Carolina — have in­tro­duced per­son­hood leg­is­la­tion.

For Sarah Stoesz, pres­i­dent of Planned Par­ent­hood Min­nesota, whose ju­ris­dic­tion in­cludes North and South Dakota, the leg­is­la­tion is alarm­ing. She ar­gues that it could ham­per ac­cess to birth con­trol, in vitro fer­til­iza­tion and emer­gency con­tra­cep­tion.

“HB 1572 is danger­ous, far­reach­ing and al­lows the gov­ern­ment, not women and fam­i­lies, to make crit­i­cal de­ci­sions about health care,” Ms. Stoesz said. “This bill is not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the ma­jor­ity of North Dakotans; it is merely an­other at­tempt by a nar­row mi­nor­ity fix­ated on an agenda that most Amer­i­cans sim­ply don’t sup­port.”

Last year, per­son­hood bal­lot mea­sures in Colorado and Mon­tana were de­feated, al­though sup­port­ers say the ef­fort helped raise the move­ment’s pro­file.

Ore­gon has launched a pe­ti­tion drive to place a per­son­hood amend­ment on the 2010 bal­lot, and a sim­i­lar ef­fort is ex­pected to be­gin shortly in Mis­sis­sippi.

Con­spic­u­ously ab­sent from the de­bate was North Dakota Right to Life, which nei­ther sup­ported nor op­posed the bill. The na­tion’s largest and best-known pro-life group, Right to Life has dis­agreed in some in­stances with the per­son­hood move­ment over tac­tics and strat­egy.

Paul Maloney, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of North Dakota Right to Life, said he wor­ried that the bill’s word­ing may not mea­sure up to le­gal scru­tiny and added that he was con­sult­ing with the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s at­tor­neys be­fore tak­ing a po­si­tion.

The North Dakota bill states: “For pur­poses of in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the con­sti­tu­tion and laws of North Dakota, it is the in­tent of the leg­isla­tive as­sem­bly that an in­di­vid­ual, a per­son, when the con­text in- di­cates that a ref­er­ence to an in­di­vid­ual is in­tended, or a hu­man be­ing in­cludes any or­gan­ism with the genome of homo sapi­ens.”

“This is ground­break­ing stuff for us in the pro-life move­ment,” said Keith Ma­son, founder of Colorado-based Per­son­hoodUSA.

“It’s al­ways a good time to chal­lenge Roe v. Wade. But you have to be in­tel­li­gent about it,” Mr. Maloney said. “The last thing you want to do is go with a poorly worded per­son­hood bill, have it de­feated and then de­stroy your chance of over­turn­ing Roe.”

Mr. Ma­son ac­knowl­edged that the fear of de­feat at the high court has made some pro-life ad­vo­cates re­luc­tant to pur­sue the strat­egy.

“It’s true, we could lose. The fear is that some­one like [Jus­tice Ruth Bader] Gins­burg could cre­ate a su­per­right to abor­tion,” he said. “But if you look at pro-life vic­to­ries like par­tial birth, we didn’t win the first time around. [. . . ] Proabor­tion ac­tivists have changed some of their tac­tics, which means we need to change ours.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.