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Karen Stoker, Fargo, Published March 25 2013

Letter: Attack on women’s health threatens health of state

As a North Dakota resident and business owner, what has happened at the Legislature regarding women’s health has me deeply concerned for the future of our state. Small businesses thrive when communities thrive. Communities thrive when there is innovation, free enterprise, academic freedom and when we attract and retain young people. Current legislation has us going the opposite direction.

Six bills have been introduced this legislative session that limit or ban abortion in North Dakota. One would change the state Constitution so that a fertilized egg would be recognized as a person – going much further than banning abortion. A “personhood” constitutional amendment would also ban IVF and some forms of hormonal birth control. As many as 40 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Passing these laws would open the door for miscarriages to be investigated.

Other bills aim to ban abortion from several different vantage points including closing the doors of our state’s only women’s clinic and banning abortion as early as six weeks – before many women even know they’re pregnant. These bills defy the separation of church and state and, as made clear by the U.S. Supreme Court, are unconstitutional.

In addition, legislators furtively attached an amendment to one of the bills that directly aims to end federally funded partnerships between our state’s university research institutions (i.e. the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University) and professional, respected organizations with scientifically proven results (i.e. Planned Parenthood, Sanford). In January, the North Dakota attorney general ruled the partnership between NDSU and Planned Parenthood constitutional. The teen pregnancy prevention program is once again on hold due to this amendment. That our legislature would ban abortion and then attack the research and educational programs that help prevent unintended pregnancy is backwards and baffling.

These attacks on women’s health and the efforts to de-fund research and education partnerships are completely out of sync with the dynamic and innovative state I believe we are. The North Dakota I want to live in is the one that voted down Measure 3 last June. Measure 3 was a constitutional amendment that could have wreaked havoc on our state constitution and permitted all kinds of harm and discrimination – especially in areas of women’s health and rights. We knew what was right. The people spoke. The measure was resoundingly defeated with 64 percent voting against the measure. Why are our representatives now spending time and energy on these issues and risking millions of taxpayer dollars in legal battles?

People look for more than a job – we want to live in a place that reflects our values. We want to be able to stand proudly by the institutions in our communities like UND and NDSU. We want to raise our families in a place where people judge less and care more. That’s the North Dakota I know. When these bills arrive before Gov. Jack Dalrymple, I hope common sense prevails and he vetoes them. If he doesn’t, not only will the health of women and teens be at risk, the health of the state and our ability to grow North Dakota will be as well.

Stoker, Fargo, is owner of the Hotel Donaldson in downtown Fargo.