North Dakota Personhood Amendment Vote Aims to Take Down Roe v. Wade

At 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning, the North Dakota State House will have a committee hearing concerning the personhood amendment that went through the Senate in February. Earlier this year, the North Dakota State Senate passed a personhood amendment (ND 4009) to amend their state Constitution to state, “The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.” This amendment would give the state the authority to completely regulate reproductive rights for all women in the state, and it is specifically targeted at challenging Roe v. Wade.

If this bill were to pass the House, it would go to a vote in the state, where it will most likely pass, according to the Huffington Post. The implications of this bill go as high as overturning Roe v. Wade. Similar acts have been put to referendum in Arkansas and Mississippi, but North Dakota's proposed legislation has surpassed all of them.

In addition to the personhood amendment, the House has passed a heartbeat abortion ban (HB 1456), which would ban abortions after six weeks. HB 1305 would force women to disclose the reasons for their abortion. If the reasons have to do with the sex of the potential child or a possible genetic abnormality, then an abortion cannot be performed. The Senate also passed a 20-week ban on abortions.

Piggybacking off of a comment by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, North Dakota State Sentory Margaret Sitte (R) drafted and sponsored the personhood amendment to the North Dakota State Constitution. Sitte justified her actions by stating that the Senate was “ …intending that [this bill] be a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, since Scalia said that the Supreme Court is waiting for states to raise a case.”

In addition to Sitte's personhood amendment, the state will require doctors to perform abortions in hospitals and not in the one abortion clinic in the state. Shutting down the one abortion clinic in the state denies women easy access and privacy to having an emergency abortion, which is the one exception to this amendment.

North Dakota has crossed its boundaries by legislating morality. The conservative state is looking to push its agenda on the national level by setting the stage for other states to follow in their footsteps. This pressure will force the Supreme Court of the United States to revisit Roe v. Wade, which solidified the right to privacy and opened up the gateway for numerous abortion and privacy rights cases.

HB 1305 clearly violates women's right to privacy, and bullies women into thinking that having an abortion is bad. If the House passes this bill, the state will vote on it in 2014. We can only hope the electorate will follow in the footsteps of Mississippi and not let it pass.  

North Dakota's bills surpass the abortion issue. They constitute a gender equality issue. According to the American Prospect, the state of North Dakota is one of the worst places in the country to live if you are a woman. Statistically speaking, “women make up only 42% of the single population in North Dakota, creating a ‘man’s world’ atmosphere where sexist behavior has few checks on it. Women are constantly being sexually harassed, and the rates of crimes against women are rising.”

Given this increase in sexual violence in a male-dominated state, it is no wonder that those pushing anti-abortion legislation gave no thought to women's right to privacy.

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Steven Romeo

Steven Romeo is a senior at The University of Alabama. He will graduate in August of 2013. He is the founder of The Change Project, a photography based social justice non-profit that takes revolutionary art off of the walls and onto our bodies. He is a member of the 2013 Alumni Board for Young People For. He went through the Young People For Fellowship Program in 2010. He has been on the Fellowship Selection Committee for 3 years and was a mentor and Blueprint reader for the 2012 Fellowship Class. He currently serves as the Program Director for Equality Alabama's Board of Directors.

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