North Dakota Abortion Ban Could Have National Implications

Andy Birkey

North Dakota's "egg-as-person" bill would afford "preborn persons" the "privileges and immunities" of state citizenship.

North Dakota legislators are proposing a law that could have
national implications. Dubbed the Personhood bill, SF 1572 would grant
every fertilized egg in the state full rights, and any intentional
death of that fertilized egg would constitute murder. It’s already
passed the North Dakota House and will be considered by an
anti-abortion Senate. And while Gov. John Hoeven hasn’t spoken publicly
about the bill, he is opposed to abortion.

“This sparsely populated rural state that’s proud of its
conservative roots could fundamentally alter the rights of women across
the country,” said Tim Stanley of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota,
North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS). “We feel confident that the more
people hear about 1572, the less comfortable they’ll feel about it.”

There’s a lot to be uncomfortable about, said Stanley.

The bill reads (PDF),
“The state shall naturalize all preborn persons and shall afford to
them all the privileges and immunities of state citizenship guaranteed
in… the Constitution of North Dakota.”

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The one privilege that North Dakota plans to deny fertilized eggs?
“The state is not required to include preborn children in state and
local censuses,” the bill reads.

But while the bill clarifies how to count fertilized eggs and fetuses for the census, it leaves many more questions open.

“It’s possible that this bill would could result in criminal
prosecution for women who have a miscarriage,” said Stanley. “Under
this language a miscarriage could be investigated for manslaughter or
reckless abandonment.”

Stanley also pointed to North Dakota law that makes it illegal for
two people to ride a bike built for one. If the Personhood bill passed,
a pregnant woman could not legally ride a bike.

“We are making sure that as many North Dakotans as possible hear about this bill and its implications,” he said.

Rep. Dan Ruby, the Republican lawmaker from Minot who authored the
bill, has made it clear that his intention with this bill is go all the
way to the United States Supreme Court with a challenge to Roe v. Wade.

“I think North Dakota will be on the map to be the first state in
recent years to mount a legitimate challenge to Roe v. Wade,” Ruby told the Bismarck Tribune in February.

But this week, he backed off a bit after his bill became a lightning rod in North Dakota politics. He said,
“The bill does not contain language that even mentions abortion at all.
It simply defines when life begins which, through scientific language,
defines life to begin at conception. What is so harmful about that?”

But reproductive-rights advocates see plenty that is harmful in this
legislation. “There are no life or health exceptions for women in this
bill,” said Stanley. That could put the life of a woman in jeopardy in
order to grant “rights” to a fertilized egg.

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