March 19, 2013 — Shortly after advancing two of the most restrictive abortion measures (HB 1456, HB 1305) in the nation, North Dakota lawmakers are considering banning all abortions through a pair of "personhood" bills that would grant legal rights to fertilized eggs, the AP/Grand Forks Herald reports.
If either of the latest measures were enacted, North Dakota would become the first state to enshrine into law the notion that legal rights should begin at conception. Neither measure would allow exceptions for abortions in cases of rape or incest.
One of the bills (SB 2303) is a proposed state law, while the second (ND 4009) would place a resolution on the state ballot that would become part of the state constitution if approved by voters.
The state Senate passed the measures in February, and the House could consider them as soon as Tuesday. Abortion-rights supporters have pledged to fight the legislation in court if necessary.
Physicians Voice Concerns About Criminalization
Physicians in North Dakota have condemned the bills as an intrusion into their medical decisions and the doctor-patient relationship. The North Dakota Medical Association is opposed to the legislation, and a group of medical students from the University of North Dakota's medical school also spoke out against it.
At a news conference with physicians on Monday, Stephanie Dahl -- an infertility specialist -- said the measures could ban in vitro fertilization and compel physicians to leave the state, rather than maneuver around restrictions and potentially face criminal penalties.
Steffen Christensen -- founder of an IVF clinic in the state -- said, "The concern is that this is criminal negligence if anything should happen to an embryo."
In response, state Sen. Margaret Sitte (R) said the legislation was specifically worded to allow exceptions for the "screening, collecting, preparing, transferring, or cryopreserving a human being created through in vitro fertilization for the purpose of being transferred to a human uterus" (Kolpack, AP/Grand Forks Herald, 3/18).