Posted 9/16/14 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
Where do North Dakotans stand on the value of life? And more importantly, where do they stand at protecting life in all of its stages?
That simple question seems to be at the base of Measure No. 1, which North Dakotans will be asked to decide in this coming fall election. But sometimes a simple question does not have a simple answer.
As presented, Measure No. 1 would add but one single sentence to North Dakota’s Constitution, that being “The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”
And it’s simplicity is the problem with Measure No. 1 and why North Dakota voters should defeat it. Rather than saying Measure No. 1 is an anti-abortion bill, proponents of the measure are clouding the state’s constitution with language that neither says what is permissible or not permissible. Rather it simply says that all life, at whatever stage, must be recognized and protected.
Does that mean that some birth control measure would be illegal? Does it mean that living wills would no longer be valid and that people would no longer have a free choice when it comes to how they want to spend their last days on Earth? Does it mean that in vitro fertilization would no longer be permissible? Does it also mean that a woman who becomes pregnant from rape could no longer have an abortion?
Yes, human life needs to be protected. But this 19-word constitutional measure is not the way to go about protecting life.
One of the groups pushing Measure No. 1 is Personhood USA of Denver, Colo., which sees the Personhood movement as a way to overturn Roe v. Wade. It is their belief that if Measure No. 1 is passed by the citizens of North Dakota, it would lay the groundwork for overturning this U.S. Supreme Court ruling that does not extend protection of the 14th amendment to a fetus.
But, because of its ambiguity, if Measure No. 1 is passed by the voters, the State of North Dakota should plan on spending millions of dollars trying to defend a litany of court cases all created by out-of-state groups who are pushing the “personhood” proposal across the country.
Proponents of Measure No. 1 have not done a good job of clarifying what would be allowed or not allowed by this change to the North Dakota Constitution. Maybe they truly don’t know. Or maybe they just aren’t telling.
Likewise, the opponents of the measure are forced into a game of speculation as to what would happen if Measure No. 1 passes.
For most North Dakotans, we know when life starts. We also know when life ends. And for those families that at some point or time must make decisions regarding end-of-life matters, whether they be made because of a personal choice or a religious belief, the choice has to be left to them.
For that reason, and because of the ambiguity of those 19 words, North Dakota voters need to say “No” to Measure No. 1.