News Politics

North Dakota Voters Reject ‘Personhood’ Measure

Teddy Wilson

North Dakota voters on Tuesday rejected a ballot measure to amend the state constitution to define life as beginning at conception. A similar so-called personhood amendment was defeated in Colorado as well.

Read more of our articles on North Dakota Measure 1 here.

North Dakota voters on Tuesday rejected a ballot measure to amend the state constitution to define life as beginning at conception. A similar so-called personhood amendment was defeated in Colorado as well.

The North Dakota measure was defeated by a margin of 64 percent to 36 percent, though anti-choice advocates say they are unfazed by the results and will fight to put a personhood measure on another North Dakota ballot.

Public opinion polls leading up to Election Day had indicated that the vote might be close, and political observers in the state said that the measure was likely to be approved.

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Opponents of the measure campaigned on the effects it would have on not only abortion rights, but also how it would affect a variety of reproductive health-care decisions facing North Dakota women.

North Dakotans Against Measure 1 chairman Dina Butcher told the Bismarck Tribune that the rejection of the measure was a victory for women and families.

“This measure was defeated because of the impact it would have had to families’ end-of-life decisions, because it would have ended in vitro fertilization in our state, and because it would have banned abortion without exceptions for rape and incest victims or to save the life of the woman,” Butcher said.

Lawmakers placed the measure on the ballot with the passage of SCR 4009 in March 2013. It was passed narrowly in the state senate by a 26-21 vote, and then overwhelmingly in the house by a 57-35 vote.

The primary sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Margaret Sitte (R-Bismarck), was also rejected by voters, losing her bid for re-election to Democrat Erin Oban. Another prominent supporter of the measure, Rep. Bette Grande (R-Fargo), lost to Democrat Pamela Anderson.

Oban defeated Sitte by a surprisingly wide margin of 58 to 41 percent. “I’m very humbled and shocked to be honest,” Oban told the Bismarck Tribune. “I was expecting a very close race.”

Supporters of the measure were disappointed but undeterred by the defeat.

“We are, of course, very disappointed with the results of the balloting tonight, but we are not deterred or dissuaded from the cause of life, nor will we give up the fight,” North Dakota Choose Life chairman Janne Myrdal said in statement.

Once reason supporters may be optimistic is that when the state legislature convenes in January, Republicans will control significant majorities in both the state house and senate. Lawmakers passed anti-choice legislation during the 2013 legislative session, and they can do so once again in 2015.

The defeat adds to a growing list of electoral defeats for the personhood movement. Similar personhood amendments have now been defeated in Colorado three times—2008, 2010, and 2014—and once in Mississippi in 2011.

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