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Beth Nodland, Bismarck, Published March 20 2013

Letter: Grandstanders don’t speak for personal family situations

Regarding the article: “Anti-abortion attorney says heartbeat measure won’t survive legal challenge.” The passage by North Dakota’s Legislature of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws is bringing national attention. As a North Dakotan and the mother of a child with Down syndrome, I must challenge Sen. Margaret Sitte, R-Bismarck, and Rep. Bette Grande’s, R-Fargo, recent grandstanding on the issues of genetic abnormalities.

Sitte and Grande do not speak on behalf of my family, or for all families in North Dakota who love people with genetic conditions. I deeply resent that this heart-rending, very personal situation is being used as a political football.

A national group called “Americans United for Life” has provided an array of “model legislation” to pro-life groups in every state to recruit legislators to introduce similar bills during this year’s legislative sessions. Using this scattershot approach, the goal is to throw it out there and see what sticks, to bring on a challenge to Roe v. Wade. Well, North Dakota’s Republican legislators have taken the bait, and now North Dakota taxpayers will spend a tremendous amount of money defending this out-of-state group’s agenda.

These same Republicans are trying to repeal health care without lifetime caps, without pre-existing condition exclusions, and that gives support services to the very children for whom they profess to be fighting.

During the current session, GOP legislators have denied milk for underprivileged children in our classrooms; not supported childhood education programs for high-risk children; proposed relaxing quality guidelines for child care providers; and are cutting dollars for supports to people with developmental disabilities.

On the bright side, this Trojan-horse legislation creates an opportunity for society, perhaps even at the national level, to begin a nuanced conversation about real-world supports for families and people with disabilities, about genetics, eugenics and prenatal testing. Just as the new science of cloning did in its time, this legislation highlights the powerful new genetic science technologies that allow us to make choices about the fabric of our society and whether we want to actively control who gets born, and how we support the most vulnerable among us.