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Karla Rose Hanson, Fargo, Published February 03 2013

Letter: ‘Personhood’ legislation far too extreme for North Dakota

Should a fertilized egg have the same legal status as you? Some North Dakota lawmakers think so. The Legislature is considering three bills that would recognize and defend the rights of every human being “at any stage of development.” These extreme “personhood” bills have a narrow intent – to ban abortion – but a broad impact with dangerous consequences for women and families.

A personhood law would make it extremely difficult for couples to use infertility treatment like in vitro fertilization to build a family. One bill bans the ability to freeze embryos, creating a bigger burden physically, financially and emotionally for couples and devastating cancer patients trying to preserve their fertility before chemotherapy. A personhood law would threaten doctors’ ability to treat women for life-threatening ectopic pregnancies and incomplete miscarriages. A personhood law would ban most birth control. As a result, we’d see more unintended pregnancies and abortions and an inability to treat many medical conditions.

A personhood law would ban abortion, even for victims of rape and incest. It only provides a narrow exception to save the life of a mother in a “medical emergency,” which would be confusing and doesn’t account for the health of the mother.

These bills, held up as a way to protect life, would actually do the reverse. By limiting women’s safe reproductive health care options, lawmakers will put women’s lives and health at risk. By making IVF prohibitive, lawmakers will prevent couples from bringing new life into the world and building families. Because of these broad and negative consequences, no other state has passed personhood into law. Even Mississippi rejected a personhood amendment at the ballot with 58 percent against it. The concept of personhood was found unconstitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of that case, upholding the lower court’s decision.

If North Dakota becomes the first state in the country to pass personhood into law, it will likely result in very costly litigation. Let’s not waste taxpayer dollars to defend an extreme law that has already been found unconstitutional. While we all may not agree on abortion, we should uphold the right to privacy in health care. Health care decisions should be made between a patient and her health care provider – not by the Legislature. Ask your legislators to vote “no” on Senate Concurrent Resolution 4009, Senate Bill 2302 and Senate Bill 2303.