February 19, 2009

Groups Argue Against Proposed ‘Personhood’ Measure

A new law passed by legislators in North Dakota that gives a fertilized egg human rights has been met with opposition from pro-choice groups that claim the law is too costly, would abolish abortion within the state, and could also eliminate the availability of birth control.

State representatives voted 51-41 to approve the legislation on Tuesday. It now faces a North Dakota Senate review before being finalized.

The bill says "any organism with the genome of homo sapiens" is a human, and therefore protected by North Dakota Constitution and state laws.

"This language is not as aggressive as the direct ban legislation that I've proposed in the past," Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, the proposal's sponsor, said during a floor debate on Tuesday.

"This is very simply defining when life begins, and giving that life some protections under our Constitution "” the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

The measure will be used to challenge the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe versus Wade decision that gave women the absolute right to terminate a pregnancy during the first three months and a qualified right to do so up to six months.

"The purpose of these laws is to challenge Roe v Wade. Once Roe v Wade is overturned, it doesn't mean abortion is illegal in all 50 states but it says that the states decide what to do with abortion," Brian Rooney of the Thomas More Law Center told AFP.

Judie Brown, president of the pro-life American Life League said: "Justice Blackmun said in the original Roe versus Wade decision that if personhood is ever established for the human being at the moment of his conception or creation, the Roe versus Wade decision would fall."

However, pro-choice groups have vowed to fight the legislation.

"The bill is written so broadly that it could easily impact other major life decisions in reproductive health care, including birth control and emergency contraception," said Tim Stanley, head of communications at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America branch representing North and South Dakota.

"It goes well beyond an abortion ban and well beyond what mainstream Americans and North Dakotans want," he told AFP.

"It's not a done-deal. We're hopeful we'll be able to make our case and stop this bill cold."

Meanwhile, an Oklahoma House Public Health Committee approved legislation that would prohibit physicians from performing abortions solely on account of the gender of a woman's fetus. However, the measure's author, Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa, said there is no evidence the practice has ever occurred in the state, according to the AP.

The legislation passed 20-2 by the House Public Health Committee. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.


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