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Jane Ahlin, Published February 02 2013

Ahlin: Radicals in Legislature push ‘personhood’ bills

Not one, not two, but three “personhood” bills have been introduced in the North Dakota Legislature. Actually, altogether there are seven bills that are abortion related. It appears the extreme social conservatives in the Republican Party believe that if they throw enough bad legislation out there, something will pass. Of course, if a personhood bill passes, it will cost a boatload of North Dakota taxpayers’ money to defend it in court. Also, because personhood bills from other states have been defeated soundly at the ballot box (even Mississippi defeated it with 58 percent against it) or struck down as unconstitutional (the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled against a proposed constitutional amendment) chances are that boatload of money will be wasted.

No problem. Although they claim to be conservatives, personhood legislators will spare no expense when it comes to foisting their brand of political Christianity on the rest of us. In pursuit of ideology, they refuse to acknowledge the complexity inherent in human reproduction or to trust women and board-certified physicians to do what is best in their personal situations.

Let’s discuss Senate Bill (SB) 2302 and start with in vitro fertilization. Physicians would be allowed only to attempt to fertilize one or two eggs per IVF cycle and not allowed to freeze embryos. The operative word there is “attempt.” When infertility is male-factor infertility, sperm have only a 10 20 percent chance of fertilizing eggs. In other words, if the number of eggs is limited, it’s likely to take several cycles for fertilization to occur. Because the cost is $12,000-$17,000, few young couples could afford to do the number of cycles it would take to achieve pregnancy–not to mention the needless physical pain involved in egg retrieval and ongoing emotional trauma.

The ban on freezing embryos also means patients with a cancer diagnosis may unnecessarily face childlessness. Chemotherapy and radiation often destroy the ovaries. By freezing embryos before chemotherapy begins, women can look ahead to the joys of motherhood. Make no mistake, this isn’t regulation; this is the state denying medically sound services to infertile couples.

Callous interference in the private lives of North Dakotans doesn’t stop there. Listen to the terrible language used in the bill to justify not allowing exemptions in cases of rape and incest: “The state of North Dakota does not punish the crime of sexual assault with the death penalty, and neither shall persons conceived through a sexual assault be punished with the loss of life.”

(So what if you’re traumatized, you pathetic woman who got raped; so what if you’re only 14 years old and your father molests you? The state decrees embryos come first.)

The bill also plays games with the exemption for the life of the mother by saying it must be a “medical emergency” (something like hemorrhage). That means a woman with pulmonary hypertension or congestive heart failure would not qualify for an abortion even though pregnancy may hasten her death.

Other language in the bill addresses birth control. North Dakota women could not legally use IUDs for birth control, nor could they access emergency contraception and probably many types of pills if legislators categorize those as abortifacient methods. (Medical authorities disagree with their conclusions, but that doesn’t impress this group of North Dakota legislators.)

Here’s a prediction: The same legislators who want to give embryos all the rights of full-fledged human beings (in truth, they want to give embryos greater rights than women) will be the very same legislators to vote against expanding Medicaid (health care) to 32,000 more North Dakotans.

Because her family’s financial situation is the No. 1 reason a woman seeks abortion, the right-wing legislators might want to rethink that vote. Then again, radical ideologues aren’t interested in the well-being of others; they’re only interested in forcing their beliefs on others.


Ahlin writes a Sunday column for The Forum. Email janeahlin@yahoo.com