North Dakota: at the Forefront of National Pro-life Legislation
North Dakota has been in the news a lot recently. Headlines focused attention across the country on the growth of energy production in the Bakken in Western North Dakota. Wind Chill factors of -63 also made national news. But the news cycle for this upper Midwest State ended right there; the most important story was largely ignored. North Dakota -- with quiet, effective and bipartisan cooperation -- is at the forefront of the pro-life legislative victories that are sweeping the nation.
Readers will remember the big headlines in the national media over the 20-week abortion ban in Texas, but a few weeks earlier, with bipartisan support and no fanfare, that same legislation passed in North Dakota, and our governor signed it in to law. North Dakota also became the first state to ban all gender-selection and genetic-abnormalities abortions. And with bipartisan support, the North Dakota legislature passed a ban on abortion when a heartbeat is detectable, as well as a pro-women bill that assures women will receive adequate hospital care in case of complications after surgical abortions.
Clearly, after more than 40 years of allowing the right to life to be trampled in states all across our nation, the tide is finally turning, and one of the states leading the way is North Dakota. In 2013, the North Dakota Legislature passed the Human Life Amendment with bipartisan support. Now it goes to a vote of the people. As an amendment to the State Constitution, this one sentence provides a foundation upon which North Dakotans can express their core values as just and compassionate people who love life. Measure 1, on the ballot in November 2014, will ask, "Should these words be added to the State Constitution: 'The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.'?" This amendment will simply provide a foundation for lawmakers and judges alike, as it undergirds our state and nation's founding documents, which already clearly state our "right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." This Amendment does not in itself rescind any law or pass any law, nor does it carry any penalties. What it does is protect the people of North Dakota from an encroaching government overreach which seems to consistently promote laws that dehumanize its citizens; it also protects the people from activist judges who, with a single stroke of a pen, can seemingly erase the will of the people.
We North Dakotans pride ourselves on being commonsense citizens. Perhaps it comes with enduring the cold temperatures and not losing our heads over an oil boom. Whatever the reason, our citizens have seen the wrongs that have been perpetrated upon our women and children, and we are willing to be the standard bearers for returning our society to a place where the fundamental human right -- the right to life -- is protected.
Not surprisingly, the abortion industry and its supporters are unraveling at the seams over this basic foundation stone of freedom, the right to life. That is quite revealing, and not at all surprising -- though I wonder which part of the amendment is offensive? To anyone who is alive, how can any of these words be hurtful? A clear statement about the right to life will assure that lawmakers and judges have a solid reference when doing their jobs on behalf of the people -- a reference that is so basic and universal it should be completely unnecessary to state it. Yet it is essential that we establish "life" in the constitutions of each of our states. After all, history sadly reveals that as citizens we have ignored -- yes, even promoted -- the opposite of the human right to life. Penny Young Nance, CEO and President of Concerned Women for America, has called abortion "the seminal human rights issue of our time," we in North Dakota agree, and we applaud her for her leadership in speaking such truth. The injustice of abortion must indeed end.
The laws that have advanced the cause of life this past year have not appeared overnight here or in other states. The progress over the past three years has been remarkable; the total over the past three years is more than all laws passed during the previous decade. Specifically, since 2011, 205 abortion restrictions were passed across the nation. These restrictions will provide basic sanitation in abortion clinics and protections for young girls who have to have a parent's permission to get their ears pierced, but can get an abortion in many locales without parental knowledge or consent. The laws also require appropriate credentials for the doctors in clinics where abortions are performed. These advances have come through hard work and patience. In North Dakota, the advances represent solid unity amongst pro-life groups and bipartisan cooperation across the state.
The new laws are the beginning of the end for the abortion industry. The huge profit margins of the abortion industry have depended on substandard conditions that cannot continue, and they have relied on vulnerable population groups -- Blacks and teens -- for the bulk of the abortions. People are speaking out, and they are voting their convictions on the most basic of all human rights -- human life. No wonder abortion advocates are dismayed. No wonder the lone abortion industry facility in North Dakota is challenging two of the new laws in court, along with help from the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights. No wonder the pro-abortion forces are hitting back with false accusations.
No wonder they sometimes act more like a toddler caught with a hand in the cookie jar than a "pro-woman" movement. But, North Dakotans are grownups, and we understand the importance of our constitutional rights, especially the fundamental right to life.
Janne Myrdal is State Director of Concerned Women for America of North Dakota.