Resounding “No” to Personhood in Conservative North Dakota

By Sarah Stoesz, President, Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund

Sarah Stoesz, President, Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action FundOn November 4th, voters in North Dakota made history when they made it the third state in the nation to decisively reject a "personhood" amendment and, with it, the extreme agenda of the personhood movement. The road to this victory was long, but it was also remarkable. Many North Dakotans, from all walks of life, traveled the road together and left no doubt about what a committed group of individuals can accomplish together — even in the face of great opposition. It also left no doubt as to where the people of this country, even in the most conservative states, stand on this issue.

Proponents of this measure made it clear from the beginning their intent was to end access to safe and legal abortion. Measure 1 would have also gone much farther. It would have forced in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics in North Dakota to close their doors, forced families struggling with end-of-life decisions to answer to the government and put a total ban on abortion, with no exceptions, in place. This was the anti-women’s health agenda we were up against.

The wide range of harmful consequences convinced many courageous North Dakotans — doctors, religious leaders, patients, families, judges, lawyers, domestic violence and sexual assault advocates and hospice care workers — to defeat the measure.

Dr. Stephanie Dahl, one of three reproductive endocrinologists in North Dakota, came forward because Measure 1 would have made it impossible to offer IVF at her clinic in Fargo (the only IVF center in the state). Medical students from the University of North Dakota also expressed concerns that Measure 1 could worsen the physician shortage in the state.

The measure also activated women from across the political spectrum. U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D - N.D.) issued a strong letter of opposition to the measure. In addition, GOP women in the state published a letter-to-the-editor proclaiming, “As lifelong Republicans, we fundamentally believe that individuals — not the government — are responsible for their actions and have the right to make decisions about their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Measure 1 contradicts our principles of individual freedom and responsibility.”

Parents who have struggled with difficult decisions during pregnancy also spoke up. Becky Matthews of Bismarck recalled her family’s devastating loss of twin girls seven years ago and urged voters to reject Measure 1 because, had it been in place during her pregnancy, she and her husband would have been left with no options to consider at all. Even though her options — all of which put either herself or her twins in danger — were not options she expected or wanted, they were at least hers to consider.

Countless others came forward as well. These are the heroes who defeated this atrocious constitutional amendment. North Dakotans — and all of us — are in their debt.

This serves as a reminder to all of us — especially to legislators across the country, even in the most conservative of states — when you put the personhood agenda in front of voters and have a conversation with them about the consequences, they will reject it. That’s because these measures are extreme and don’t reflect the complexity of people’s lives or values. Legislators and our new U.S. Congress would do well to heed this lesson.


Greg | November 15, 2014
There is a Life at Conception act being pushed by Ron Paul and co sponsored by many congressmen that would institute similar outrageous rules and regulations
Grandy4 | November 15, 2014
I personally believe that a baby is a person the moment it is created. I believe even deeper that having an abortion is an acceptable medical procedure for a variety of legitimate reasons. That is a personal and private decision that every woman should have the right to make herself. No politician or law has the right to make the decision. It should be between the female, and if appropriate, her partner, and a doctor. Period, the end, no other right answer.
Indianavoter | November 14, 2014
Personhood amendments are dangerous. Examples: In El Salvador there are women in jail for having had miscarriages. Indiana charged a poor, young Chinese immigrant woman with murder after she took rat poison while 8 months pregnant--she was distraught because her boyfriend had just told her he could not marry her because he was already married. She survived, but the baby was born, lived a few days, and then died as a result of the rat poison. This woman languished in jail for over a year because she could not post bail. Finally a feminist lawyer took her case and at the end the woman plead guilty to reckless endangerment, with as punishment time served. These are the horrors one can expect with a personhood amendment in place, and far worse. At least the people of ND had common sense.
sosab0012 | November 14, 2014
Under the 19th Amendment,women have the right to vote. That means the right to vote on the issue's that are directly identified as a women issue. My point is that many of the law's that are made were made under male dominant decision makers. However women have always done what they could to maintain themselves,most of the time without any assistances other than the help of the women around them,mother's,sister's, aunt's,and female cousin's. Which make up for a very large majority of the population,however,a large portion of these women fell fatally ill from the lack of proper medical care,the lack of knowledge concerning the health and welfare of women's needs,menopause,hormone treatment,for middle age women, hygiene and menstrual issue's for younger female population,most man think it is a women's issue to take care of herself as will as taking care of children,keeping the home in order and the list goes on and on. Thes are the responsibility that is placed upon a women when she becomes married to a man. The status quo must be maintain. The idea is that these are the responsibility of her role in a marriage,however,real life for women is very different than that of men,that should not be determined solely from a male dominant perspective,women need the care and attention of other women that are qualified in the area's that are known issue's that women face regardless of what other have to say about a woman's right to choose. When you have laws that contradict the protection that's on the books,DV,SA,LAT,condoms and the continuous spread of venereal diseases,concentrated law's. A young women who becomes impregnated should not be looked upon as a grown women it's very important that our young women get the education and medical care that they need to better take care of themselves. In my opinion any man that is not concerned with and involved in the health and welfare of the women,should not be allowed to interfere with their access to the vital care they must have. In my hopes it would be that the out come of this battle will become a a step towards a focus around amending the constitutional right to a vote under the 19th Amendment for women and what it means and why we have it.