North Dakota "Life Begins at Conception" Amendment, Measure 1 (2014)

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Measure 1
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:Article I, Section 1
Referred by:North Dakota Legislature
Status:Defeated Defeatedd
2014 measures
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June 10
Measure 1Approveda
November 4
Measure 1 Defeatedd
Measure 2 Approveda
Measure 3 Defeatedd
Measure 4 Defeatedd
Measure 5 Defeatedd
Measure 6 Defeatedd
Measure 7 Defeatedd
Measure 8 Defeatedd

The North Dakota "Life Begins at Conception" Amendment, Measure 1 was on the November 4, 2014 ballot in the state of North Dakota as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was defeated. The measure would have amended the state constitution to provide for the “inalienable right to life” at every stage of human development.[1] Opponents, like NARAL Pro-Choice America, and supporters, like Personhood USA, however, stated that the amendment’s primary goal was to include “fetal development” as a “stage of life.”[2][3][4]

The amendment was introduced into the North Dakota Legislature as Senate Concurrent Resolution 4009.[1]

North Dakota would have been the first state to define life as beginning at conception if Measure 1 had been approved by voters.

Supporters said the amendment, which they called the Inalienable Right to Life Amendment and Human Life Amendment, would have recognized human life as a gift and reflected the values of North Dakotans. They also argued that the measure would have protected existing laws regulating abortion. Opponents, on the other hand, argued that the measure was poorly written, too abstract and too broad. Therefore, the amendment could have affected access to birth control, in vitro fertilization and abortion.

Election results

North Dakota Measure 1
Defeatedd No161,30364.13%
Yes 90,224 35.87%

Election results via: North Dakota Secretary of State Office

Text of the measure

Ballot title

The official ballot text was as follows:[5]

Constitutional Measure No. 1
(Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 4009, 2013 Session Laws, Ch. 519)

This constitutional measure would create and enact a new section to Article I of the North Dakota Constitution that would state “The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”

YES - means you approve the measure stated above.

NO - means you reject the measure stated above. [6]

Constitutional changes

See also: Article I, North Dakota Constitution

Had it been approved, Measure 1 would have added a new section to Article I of the Constitution of North Dakota:[1]

The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.[6]


"Personhood" measures

See also: Abortion on the ballot

Three measures to define life as beginning at conception had recently been on the ballot prior to 2014. In 2011, Mississippi’s Initiative 26 was defeated by voters despite disproportionately funded campaigns, with supporters raising $48,647 and opponents raising $5,407. Both Colorado’s Amendment 48 and Amendment 62 were defeated by wide margins. Currently, no state defines the “inalienable right to life” for humans as beginning at conception.[7]

Measure 1 of 1972

See also: North Dakota Abortion Initiative, Measure 1 (1972)

Measure 1 of 2014 was the second time in North Dakota's history that an issue related to abortion appeared on the ballot. An initiative, also known as Measure 1, was on the November 7, 1972, ballot. The vote took place before Roe v. Wade and would have legalized abortion in North Dakota. About 77 percent of voters said no to the measure, thus keeping abortion illegal in North Dakota.[8]

2013 bills

In 2013, two laws were enacted to regulate abortion in North Dakota. One banned the procedure once a fetus has a detectable heartbeat, which is about six weeks into a pregnancy. The other prohibited women from having an abortion based on the sex of a fetus or because a fetus has a genetic defect.[9] Supporters of the bills said their goal was to challenge the United States Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. Sen. Mac Schneider (D-42) said the legislature should focus on crime and infrastructure improvement, rather than "expensive and potentially protracted abortion litigation." He continued, "There hasn't been near enough attention given to the costs as we've debated these issues. We need to be honest with taxpayer funds and that is: We will be spending money on attorneys." Rep. Bette Grande (R-41) replied, "I don't look at it from the financial side of things. I look at it from the life side of things."[10]

On April 16, 2014, Judge Daniel Hovland of the US District Court for North Dakota ruled the detectable heartbeat law unconstitutional. He cited Roe v. Wade, saying, "[N]o state may deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at a point prior to viability." Hovland continued, "The controversy over a woman's right to choose to have an abortion will never end. The issue is undoubtedly one of the most divisive of social issues. The United States Supreme Court will eventually weigh in on this emotionally-fraught issue but, until that occurs, this Court is obligated to uphold existing Supreme Court precedent."[11]


North Dakota Choose Life 2014.png

The campaign in support of the amendment was led by North Dakota Choose Life.[12]

Supporters called the measure the Human Life Amendment.[13]

Proponents argued that the amendment would recognize human life as a gift and reflect the values of North Dakotans. They also argued that the measure would protect existing laws regulating abortion from being overturned by judges.



The following officials sponsored the amendment in the North Dakota Legislature:[1]

Other officials supporting the amendment included:


  • North Dakota Family Alliance[15]
  • Concerned Women for America, North Dakota Chapter
  • North Dakota Life League
  • North Dakota Catholic Physicians Group
  • Fargo Guild of the Catholic Men’s Association
  • Love Them Both
  • 40 Days for Life
  • North Dakota Right to Life
  • North Dakota Catholic Radio
  • FirstChoice Clinic
  • Saint Gianna Maternity Home
  • St. Thomas More Society of North Dakota
  • Grand Forks Women’s Pregnancy Center
  • University of Mary
  • North Dakota Catholic Conference[15]
  • Roman Catholic Diocese of Bismarck
  • Roman Catholic Diocese of Fargo
  • North Dakota Knights of Columbus
  • St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy
  • The North Dakota District, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
  • North Dakota District Council of the Assemblies of God
  • Beautiful Savior Lutheran; Fargo
  • Bethel Assembly of God; Mandan
  • Bethel Evangelical Free Church; Fargo
  • Bismarck Baptist Church; Bismarck
  • Bismarck Baptist Home Church; Bismarck
  • Bismarck Community Church; Bismarck
  • Bowdon Community Church of God; Bowdon
  • Bowman United Methodist Church; Bowman[16]
  • Calvary Chapel Minot; Minot
  • Calvary Church; Bismarck
  • Calvary Presbyterian Church; Ryder
  • Calvary United Methodist; Fargo
  • Capitol Heights Baptist Church; Bismarck
  • Community Baptist Church; Fargo
  • Corner Stone Community Church; Hazen
  • Evangelical Bible Church; Dickinso
  • Faith Baptist Church; Kenmare
  • Faith Center Church; Bismarck
  • Faith Evangelical Church; Underwood
  • First Assembly; Fargo
  • First Assembly of God; Minot
  • First Baptist Church Linton
  • First Evangelical Free Church; Bismarck
  • First Free Methodist Church; Fargo
  • Gateway Community Fellowship; Bismarck
  • Harvey Assembly of God; Harvey
  • Hazen Christian Fellowship; Hazen
  • Holy Cross Lutheran Church; Bismarck
  • Ignite Church; Moorhead, MN
  • Immanuel Baptist Church; Beulah
  • Immanuel Baptist Church; Dickinson
  • Lake Assembly; Powers Lake
  • Legacy United Methodist; Bismarck
  • Living Word Fellowship; Dickinson
  • Mandan Nazarene Church; Mandan
  • Metropolitan Baptist Church; Fargo
  • New Song Church; Bismarck
  • Northland Harvest Church; Minot
  • Prairie View Church of God; Beulah
  • Prince of Peace Lutheran Church; Beulah
  • Redeemer Lutheran Church and Preschool; Dickinson
  • Riverwood Baptist Church; Bismarck
  • Riverwood Church; Bismarck
  • Salem Evangelical Free Church; Fargo
  • Shanley/Sullivan Church; Fargo
  • Shepherd of the Valley; Bismarck
  • Shiloh Evangelical Free Church; West Fargo
  • St. Paul’s Lutheran: Minot
  • St. Andrew Lutheran; West Fargo
  • St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church; Dickinson
  • St. Paul’s Free Lutheran; Fargo
  • St. Anne & Joachim Church; Fargo
  • Word of Faith Church; Bismarck
  • Messiah Lutheran Church: LCMS, Mandan


A North Dakota Choose Life video explaining why the group supports Measure 1.

North Dakota Choose Life issued a frequently asked questions document to explain its position on the amendment. The following is an excerpt from the document:

Q. Why is the amendment needed?

North Dakotans are a just and compassionate people. We recognize that human life is a gift that deserves protection. Similarly, we believe that abortion is morally wrong. Reflecting our values, the Legislature has passed several pro-life laws to protect women and children, including ensuring that women are given full disclosure of information prior to an abortion, making sure parents are notified if their daughter is seeking an abortion, and prohibiting children who are partially born from being killed by an abortionist before their birth can be completed.

Unfortunately, wealthy out-of-state special interest groups regularly challenge North Dakota’s pro-life laws and attempt to persuade judges to invent a state constitutional right to abortion as a way of overturning these laws. The Human Life Amendment will give the state needed legal protection against a judge inventing a right to abortion.

Q. Is there a threat that state judges will find a right to abortion in north dakota’s state constitution?

Not only is there a threat, but this is exactly what happened recently in Fargo. Ruling on the validity of two laws passed by the Legislature to protect the health and safety of women receiving abortions, Judge Wickham Corwin claimed that the North Dakota constitution contains an implicit right to abortion.

Judge Corwin’s ruling is being reviewed by the North Dakota Supreme Court. Even if they overturn him, the assault on our pro-life laws from groups like Planned Parenthood will continue. Activists in several other states have been able to convince state judges there to create a right to abortion. The Human Life Amendment will give needed legal protection against these attacks in North Dakota.

Q. Does the amendment ban abortion?

No. The amendment leaves decisions about abortion to our elected officials. North Dakota has a number of strong, common-sense pro-life laws designed to protect women and their unborn children. The Human Life Amendment provides constitutional protections to uphold laws like ensuring a woman’s right to disclosure, notifying parents before a daughter receives an abortion and protecting children from the horror of “partial birth” abortion which entails the indefensible, grotesque killing of a child in the process of being born. Neither North Dakota law nor the proposed Human Life Amendment contain an absolute ban on abortion. The decision to enact additional pro-life laws will remain with the Legislature.

Q. Won’t a court eventually strike down the amendment, wasting taxpayers money?

No. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, let stand a similar law from Missouri. Rather than wasting taxpayers’ money, the Human Life Amendment will save money by preventing lawsuits that attempt to create a right to abortion in the state constitution. [6]

North Dakota Choose Life[17]

Other arguments in support included:

  • Sponsor Sen. Margaret Sitte (R-35) claimed, “This amendment is intended to present a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. By passage of this amendment, the people of North Dakota are asking government to recognize what science already defined.”[7]

Campaign contributions

Total campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
as of December 3, 2014
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $585,632
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $824,487

Supporters had received $585,632 in contributions as of December 3, 2014.[18]

PAC info:

PAC Amount raised Amount spent
North Dakota Choose Life $578,402 $409,879
Yes On 1 $7,230 $6,148
Total $585,632 $416,027

Top 10 contributors:

Donor Amount
North Dakota Catholic Conference $186,000
Wanzek Family Foundation $50,000
George Loegering $50,000
ND Right to Life $30,050
Patricia Pflugrath $25,000
J and P Livestock $25,000
PCS $20,000
Dwight Grotberg $10,250
Gretchen Hoffman $10,000
Ann Dahl $10,000


North Dakota Vote No on Measure 1 2014.png

The campaign against the amendment was led by North Dakotans Against Measure 1.[19]

The campaign's main argument was that "Measure 1 is poorly written and the unclear language leaves it open to interpretation – leading to more government intrusion into our personal lives. Measure 1 may seem harmless, but it is an extreme and dangerous law. It would have serious unintended consequences if passed."[19]



The North Dakota Coalition for Privacy in Healthcare made the following arguments against the amendment:[24]

  • "Couples who want to bring new life into the world could be devastated by this anti-family legislation. A personhood law could ban in vitro fertilization (IVF) and affect families who are storing frozen embryos."
  • "This law could make it difficult for doctors to help women with life-threatening ectopic pregnancies and incomplete miscarriages because they may be compelled to treat embryos and women equally. As a result, women's lives and health will be at risk."
  • "Some forms of birth control could be banned, causing more unintended pregnancies. Already, 40% of pregnancies are unintended."
  • "A woman who miscarries may be subject to criminal charges of homicide, manslaughter or reckless endangerment since the nature of the pregnancy loss could be questioned."
  • "All abortion services would be banned. Victims of rape and incest could be forced to carry a pregnancy that resulted from sexual violence. Women whose health is at risk could also be prohibited from terminating their pregnancies."
  • "Because the amendment requires the protection of life at any stage, it may impact end-of-life care. It could nullify living wills and advance directives that instruct caregivers to stop life support. Prolonging life support beyond a desired point would be costly to families and affect organ donation."
  • "A personhood law would force one religious view onto all citizens through law - infringing on our religious freedom. Not every religion believes that life begins at conception. For example, in the Jewish faith, people believe life begins at birth."
  • "If North Dakota is the first state to pass a personhood law, it will likely result in costly litigation. Let's not waste millions of taxpayer dollars to defend an extreme law that has already been found unconstitutional. The state already faces high costs to defend the other extreme abortions laws signed by the governor."
  • "With a personhood law in place, law enforcement could be required to protect life at any stage of development. The investigation, prosecution and defense of crimes against any person, even embryos, will cost taxpayers money and clog up courts even further."

Former Lt. Gov Lloyd Omdahl (D) argued that the measure is "driven primarily by theology." He claimed that the Christian faith teaches "personal accountability," rather than "universal secular mandate[s]." He continued:

Since this measure is driven primarily by theology, it is appropriate to examine it in the light of Christian values.

The principle involved is sanctity of life.

For most Christians, the Bible establishes values. Unfortunately, the Bible does not directly address the issue before us. Proponents of Measure No. 1 buttress their case with a number of scriptural references, some of which are irrelevant while others are generic. So we must draw conclusions based on general Bible teaching.

Considering the general tenor of scripture, there are several reasons we can claim that sanctity of life is an underlying principle of God’s relationship with mankind.

1. Because God created life, humans should not treat his magnificent work carelessly.
2. The importance of human life to God is evidenced by his constant reaching for a meaningful relationship with humanity through centuries of time, starting with Abraham and the Israel nation.
3. Next, mankind was so important to him that he offered the life of his son, Jesus Christ, to bring man back to him.

With the coming of Christ, a major shift occurred between the New and the Old Testament. The Old Testament God-nation paradigm was changed to a God-person relationship in which personal accountability became a critical aspect.

Most Christians believe that there will be a time of personal accountability, at which time every human will give a personal accounting to God for transgressions committed in this life.

For Christians, Measure No. 1 would replace personal decisions and personal accountability with a universal secular mandate that would leave them with no options in difficult circumstances...

Measure No. 1 creates another problem. It provides no exception for anyone at any age who would become pregnant by seduction, sex trafficking, rape or incest. It is also silent about the impending death of a mother.

This means that the Christian parents of a 14-year-old-girl becoming pregnant by sex trafficking, seduction, rape or incest would have no voice in the matter, even though they would seek God’s counsel for the right decision and would be cognizant of the sanctity of life.

After such a traumatic experience as rape or incest, the child could become a lifelong victim mandated by Measure No. 1. Teen suicides have occurred under less challenging circumstances.

With around 80 percent of North Dakotans professing the Christian faith, it seems that churches should do more to teach Christians the Biblical values involved. That would deal with 80 percent of the problem.

For those of us who will never become pregnant by rape, seduction, incest or sex trafficking, the vote on this measure may be relatively simple, but it shouldn’t be. [6]

—Former Lt. Gov Lloyd Omdahl (D)[25]

Other arguments in opposition included:

  • Sen. Connie Triplett (D-18) voted against the legislation, arguing, "So long as this proposed amendment does not make some consideration for the life already in existence, of the woman who is carrying the child, that [sic] we have no business putting this question before the people of North Dakota."[7]
  • Rep. Hawken (R-46) said, "One of the key tenets of the Republican Party is personal responsibility. I'm personally pro-life, but I vote pro-choice, because you can't make that decision for anyone else. You just can't."[20]

Campaign contributions

Opponents had received $824,487 in contributions as of December 3, 2014.[26]

PAC info:

PAC Amount raised Amount spent
North Dakotans Against Measure 1 $815,237 $586,837
North Dakota Students Voting No on 1 $9,250 $2,438
Total $824,487 $589,275

Top 10 contributors:

Donor Amount
Planned Parenthood MN, ND, SD Action Fund $698,275
Community Action Fund of Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties $25,000
Planned Parenthood of Illinois $25,000
The North Dakota Women's Network $12,596
Feminist Majority Foundation $9,250
ACLU-ND $7,154
Planned Parenthood Association of Utah $5,000
Planned Parenthood of Montana $2,875
Steffen and Jan Christensen $2,202
Stephanie Dahl $2,200

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of North Dakota ballot measures, 2014


  • Forum Communications Co. said, "Measure 1, the so-called 'personhood amendment' has the distinction of being the most purposefully ambiguous measure ever on a North Dakota ballot. Put there by a misguided and manipulated majority of the Legislature, Measure 1’s seemingly simple and straightforward language is, in effect, an invitation to endless litigation. Moreover, it would allow the heavy hand of government to intrude needlessly into the most personal medical decisions made by families and individuals in consultation with doctors and, if desired, with clergy."[27]
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune said, "It’s unclear at best what the state gains by adding Measure 1’s language to its constitution. In addition, many respected medical providers and organizations have raised legitimate concerns about the amendment’s potential to interfere with personal medical choices, such as end-of-life-care decisions and even fertility treatments. Among the groups opposing the initiative: the North Dakota Medical Association, which represents state doctors."[28]
  • Williston Herald said, "North Dakotans should vote 'No' on Measure 1 and ensure that government and religious authorities remain out of personal medical decisions at the beginning and end of life."[29]


See also: Polls, 2014 ballot measures
North Dakota Measure 1 (2014)
Poll Favor OpposeUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
University of North Dakota College of Business and Public Administration
9/26/2014 - 10/03/2014
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to

Path to the ballot

North Dakota Constitution
Flag of North Dakota.png
See also: Amending the North Dakota Constitution

According to Section 16 of Article IV of the North Dakota Constitution, the legislature had to approve the bill by a simple majority in order to place the measure on the ballot. SCR 4009 was passed by the North Dakota Senate on February 7, 2013.[7] The amendment was passed by the North Dakota House on March 22, 2013.[30]

Senate vote

February 7, 2013 Senate vote

North Dakota SCR 4009 Senate Vote
Approveda Yes 26 55.32%

House vote

March 22, 2013 House vote

North Dakota SCR 4009 House Vote
Approveda Yes 57 61.69%

See also

Suggest a link

External links

Basic information




  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 North Dakota Legislature, "Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 4009," accessed January 21, 2014
  2. NARAL Pro-Choice America, "North Dakota," accessed March 28, 2014
  3. Personhood USA, "North Dakota passes first state personhood amendment in US history," March 22, 2014
  4. Valley News, "Measure 1 on November Ballot Aims to Ban Abortion," April 30, 2014
  5. North Dakota Secretary of State, "Official Ballot Language for Measures Appearing on the Election Ballot," accessed September 4, 2014
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Reuters, "North Dakota anti-abortion amendment for state ballot clears senate," February 7, 2013
  8. Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, "Brief History of Abortion Related Initiatives and Referenda," accessed September 4, 2014
  9. Reuters, "North Dakota Senate approves "heartbeat" abortion ban," March 15, 2014
  10. USA Today, "North Dakota lawmakers OK strictest abortion ban," March 16, 2013
  11. NPR, "Judge Overturns North Dakota's Strict Abortion Law," April 16, 2014
  12. North Dakota Choose Life, "Homepage," accessed September 2, 2014
  13. North Dakota Choose Life, "About," accessed September 2, 2014
  14. Bismarck Tribune, "Hoevens support Measure 1," September 5, 2014
  15. 15.0 15.1 North Dakota Choose Life, "Endorsements," accessed September 2, 2014
  16. Kristen Mathews, “E-Mail with Ron Olson, Pastor, Bowman United Methodist Church,” October 7, 2014
  17. North Dakota Choose Life, "Frequently Asked Questions," accessed September 2, 2014
  18. North Dakota Secretary of State, "Yes On 1," accessed October 8, 2014
  19. 19.0 19.1 North Dakotans Against Measure 1, "Homepage," accessed September 2, 2014
  20. 20.0 20.1 Huffington Post, "North Dakota Republican Pols To Protest Anti-Abortion Laws: 'We Have Stepped Over The Line," March 21, 2013
  21. The North Dakota Coalition for Privacy in Healthcare
  22. Bismarck Tribune, "Church delegates question 'life' ballot measure," June 18, 2014
  23. The Pierce County Tribune, "Libertarian Party opposes Measure 1," September 26, 2014
  24. The North Dakota Coalition for Privacy in Healthcare, "What Impact Would a Personhood Law Have?," accessed April 11, 2014
  25. Bismarck Tribune, "Measure 1 and Christian beliefs," August 31, 2014
  26. North Dakota Secretary of State, "North Dakotans Against Measure 1," accessed October 8, 2014
  27. Jamestown Sun, "Vote ‘no’ on ‘personhood’ amendment," October 7, 2014
  28. Minneapolis Star Tribune, "An attack on abortion rights in North Dakota," October 10, 2014
  29. Williston Herald, "Measure 1: ‘No’ on life amendment," October 24, 2014
  30. Arizona Daily Star, "ND to vote on referendum effectively banning abortions," March 22, 2013