Bismark, N.D. — Catholic leaders welcomed a decision by North Dakota lawmakers to approve the nation’s first amendment recognizing the right to life at every stage of human development, sending the measure before state voters.
“We are supporting the initiative to put it on the ballot. ... It would make it clear that we don’t have the right to an abortion in the state Constitution,” Christopher Dodson, executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, told EWTN News.
On March 22, the North Dakota House passed SCR 4009, which would add a section to the state Constitution stating, “The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and defended.”
The state Senate passed the measure in February, and now that it has passed the House by a 57-35 vote, it will be submitted to North Dakota voters at the 2014 general election. If voters pass the resolution, its text will be added to the state Constitution.
Dodson clarified that the resolution is not a “personhood amendment” and that its opponents are mischaracterizing it as such “because they’re trying to portray it as extreme.”
Opponents have claimed that the measure could ban all abortions and embryonic stem-cell research and forms of in vitro fertilization and birth control.
“It wouldn’t ban abortion — it wouldn’t ban anything — because a state constitutional amendment can’t ban something; it takes a legislative act to do that,” he said.
“What it does is it provides an expression of legislative intent, a guidance for the courts in interpreting state laws.”
This is a pressing issue, he said, because the single abortion facility in North Dakota is suing the state “claiming that there is a right to abortion that is greater than Roe in our state Constitution under the liberty clause.”
“The passage of this amendment would effectively cut off that argument,” he explained. “That’s the reason the bishop really supported it.”
“The North Dakota Legislature has taken historic strides to protect every human being in the state, paving the way for human rights nationwide,” stated Personhood USA's president, Keith Mason.
The resolution’s carrier in the House, state Rep. Alex Looysen, said it does not define the moment life begins, according to the Bismarck Tribune.
North Dakota’s legislative session has seen a host of pro-life bills debated.
On March 15, the state Senate passed one bill banning abortion on the basis of sex selection or genetic defects such as Down syndrome and another banning the practice after the child’s heartbeat is detectible, which is currently at 5-6 weeks after conception.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple has said he will sign the bills, and abortion-rights groups intend to challenge the legislation in court.
Also on March 22, the House passed two pro-life bills in addition to SCR 4009 and defeated a fourth.
A bill requiring that physicians performing abortions be licensed in the state and have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital was passed, as was a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks.
A personhood bill, defining a human beings as “an individual member of the species homo sapien at every stage of development,” failed by a 49-43 vote.
Bishop David Kagan, bishop of Bismarck and apostolic administrator of Fargo, said that “I want to applaud our North Dakota Legislature for passing some of the most restrictive abortion laws in our nation, with the intent to uphold the sanctify of all human life.”
He went on to encourage voters in the state to contact the governor, asking that he sign the pro-life bills into law, calling them “an important step forward” toward the protection of the “right to life of all human beings, regardless of gender, ability or status.”