Gavel and Ultrasound

North Dakota passes first personhood amendment in U.S. history

North Dakota made history Friday by becoming the first state legislature in the United States to approve a personhood amendment. The Senate and the House of Representatives endorsed a personhood measure guaranteeing the right to life for all human beings, regardless of their state of biological development.

SCR 4009 states that “the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.” Now the amendment will be referred to the people of North Dakota for a vote in 2014, which will put the bill into the state constitution.

A second bill, SB 2303, was initially approved but defeated because of an amendment. SB 2303 would have changed state laws and amended the criminal code to prohibit all abortion in North Dakota.

Some critics claim that the personhood bill could prohibit in vitro fertilization, but in reality it would be the basis only for changing standards at IVF clinics so that living human embryos cannot be killed and discarded. Some personhood proponents have come forward to talk about how IVF can be done ethically, without ever destroying a living human being.

During the debate on personhood, one pro-abortion legislator, Rep. Gail Mooney, was concerned about the consequences of recognizing the right to life at all stages, worrying that it might end the practice of “keeping bodies alive for harvesting.”

Pro-life Rep. Dan Ruby and others accurately corrected misconceptions about the bills and admirably defended the right to life. Referring to in utero surgery, Rep. Ruby pointed out the hypocrisy of denying personhood: “Some procedures remove a baby from the womb and then place it back. Did that baby become a person and then stop being a person?”

Rep. Chuck Damschen added, “We can argue when life begins, but none of us would be here had not survived every stage of development from conception.”

The House overwhelmingly supported SCR 4009, by a vote of 57-35.

Passing this personhood amendment takes the pro-life plank of the Republican Party platform and puts it into practice. The North Dakota Senate and House have taken a historic stride in protecting all North Dakotan women and their babies from abortion. Now it is left to the people of North Dakota to sign off on this historic amendment in 2014.