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
Topic:Abortion
Status:On the ballot

The North Dakota "Life Begins at Conception" Amendment, Measure 1 is on the November 4, 2014 ballot in the state of North Dakota as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. The measure, upon voter approval, would amend 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, have stated that the amendment’s primary goal is to include “fetal development” as a “stage of life” and effectively ban abortion.[2][3]

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

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

Text of the measure

Constitutional changes

Measure 1 adds 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.

Background

Three measures to define life as beginning at conception have been on the ballot in recent years. In 2011, Mississippi’s Initiative 26 was defeated by voters despite disproportionately funded campaigns, with supporters raising $48,647 and opponents raising $5,407. Colorado’s Amendment 48 and Amendment 62 both were defeated by wide margins. Currently, no state defines the “inalienable right to life” for humans as beginning at conception.[4]

Support

Supporters

Officials

Organizations

  • Concerned Women for America of North Dakota[5]
  • North Dakota Family Alliance[3]
  • North Dakota Right to Life
  • North Dakota Life League
  • North Dakota Catholic Conference
  • Personhood North Dakota

Arguments

  • 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.”[4]

Opposition

Opponents

Arguments

The North Dakota Coalition for Privacy in Healthcare made the following arguments against the amendment:[8]

  • "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."

Other arguments in opposition include:

  • 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 we have no business putting this question before the people of North Dakota."[4]
  • 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."[6]

Path to the ballot

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.[4] SCR 4009 was passed by the North Dakota House on March 22, 2013.[9]

Senate vote

February 7, 2013 Senate vote

North Dakota SCR 4009 Senate Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 26 55.32%
No2144.68%

House vote

March 22, 2013 House vote

North Dakota SCR 4009 House Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 57 61.69%
No3538.04%

See also

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