Will Kincaid/AP
Rep. Dan Ruby

North Dakota House Decides that Legal Rights Begin After Conception

February 19, 2009 07:29 AM
by Rachel Balik
A North Dakota bill that challenges Roe v. Wade and aims to ban abortion has passed in the state House and will now move on to a state Senate vote.

House Vote Puts North Dakota One Step Closer to Banning Abortion

A bill declaring that “any organism with the genome of homo sapiens” has the rights afforded all citizens of the North Dakota has passed in the state House. Representatives approved the measure by a vote of 51–41 and now it will move to the state Senate.

Rep. Dan Ruby sponsored the bill; he told the Associated Press that the bill, which would grant legal rights to fertilized human eggs, would not necessarily ban abortion. He said that the language in the bill simply served to define the beginning of human life, however was not as powerful as anti-abortion bills he had proposed in the past. Those not in favor of the bill say that defending it will cost millions of dollars, as it seems to conflict directly with the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade.

The state has a history of opposing abortion. North Dakota passed a bill in 2007 that would outlaw abortion except in cases of incest, rape or when the pregnancy jeopardized the mother’s life, as soon as the courts ruled that such a law was constitutional. Pro-life groups perceived the bill as a great victory, but others were alarmed about the threats it posed to women’s rights.

Background: Roe v. Wade and partial birth abortion

In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that abortion was a constitutionally protected right, determining that the 14th Amendment’s right to privacy supported a woman’s right to have an abortion during the first trimester of a pregnancy. The states were considered to have a certain amount of jurisdiction over a woman’s right to abort during the second and third trimesters, however.

In 2007, the Supreme Court upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, prohibiting a type of abortion often used during later trimesters. This type of abortion is now only allowed in situations of medical emergency. The majority opinion declared that the ruling did not infringe on abortion rights, but a dissent from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said the ruling was “an effort to chip away” at women’s rights, CNN reported.

Related Topic: Oklahoma house committee passes gender-based abortion bill; ultrasound bill

On Feb. 17, members of an Oklahoma House health committee passed a bill stating that doctors cannot perform abortions based on the child’s gender, voting 20-2 in its favor. Although the bill’s author, State Rep. Daniel Sullivan, says that he has never heard of situation in which someone elected to have an abortion based on the gender of a child, he feels it is important that it is not “fuzzy” to doctors, the Tulsa Daily World reported. Another section of the bill would also implement the Statistical Reporting of Abortion Act, which would mandate that doctors to report information about abortions they conduct to the State Health Department. Laws concerning abortion would also be posted in doctor’s offices.

In the autumn of 2008, Oklahoma passed a law that would obligate women to have ultrasounds before abortions. The Oklahoma’s governor had already tried to veto the bill but failed, the Oklahoman Direct reported. The law was scheduled to go into effect on Nov. 1, 2008, but a suit by an advocacy organization, the Center for Reproductive Rights, argued that the law was “vague” and conflicted with a woman’s right to choose to end her pregnancy. In response, a judge issued a temporary injunction that delayed enacting the law until March 27, 2009.

Reference: State abortion laws


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