North Dakota's Senate passed three pro-life measures on Thursday in an effort to reduce the number of abortions that are performed in the state, and to provide safety measures to protect women's health.
The legislative body passed Senate Bills 2303 and 2305, and Senate Concurrent Resolution 4009. SB 2303 defines a human being as a person at any stage of life, and "ensures that the protection that our criminal laws afford to victims of crimes extends to all human beings born and unborn." The Bill does, however, allow a physician to perform an abortion if a woman's life is threatened by a medical emergency that could endanger her life.
In addition, SB 2305 will require a physician to be licensed in North Dakota in order to perform abortions within the state, and to also be an OB-GYN with admitting privileges at a local hospital in case a woman sustains an injury during an abortion; and SCR 4009 calls for a primary election vote in 2014 to put Personhood language in the state's Constitution to declare that, "the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected."
More than 1,200 abortions are performed in North Dakota every year at the state's sole abortion clinic, the Red River Women's Clinic, located in Fargo.
Sen. Spencer Berry (R-Fargo), who's also a physician, was the primary sponsor of SB 2305. If the bill is passed by the House, a physician who performs abortions will be required to be an OB-GYN with hospital admitting privileges.
"This provision would ensure the ability of the physician performing the abortion to follow a patent to the hospital emergency room or operating room and admit and care for the patient as necessary should any complications arise," said Sen. Berry to fellow members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "The credentialing process of the hospital would assure that only qualified physicians are providing abortion services in our state."
Pro-life advocates who've been working at the state-level to encourage legislators and governors to pass Personhood amendments are encouraged by the progress that they're seeing in states, such as North Dakota.
"North Dakota is leading the way for equal rights and protections for all human beings," said Jennifer Mason, spokesperson for Personhood USA, in a statement. "After the struggles to pass life-affirming amendments in the Senate in the past four years, we are very pleased that the North Dakota Senate has chosen to protect all living human beings. This is a historic day in North Dakota."
Mason added that SCR 4009 and SB 2303 were both written to ensure that the mother and her baby are treated as medical patients, that medical care is not inhibited, and fertility treatments are not banned.
"Abortion laws are archaic, based on 40-year-old science and technology," said Mason. "Our understanding of pregnancy and human development since Roe v Wade has changed dramatically. There is no question now that the unborn child is a human being and a person, who has a right to legal recognition and protection."
Paul Maloney of North Dakota Right to life told The Christian Post that members of his organization are "excited about the passage of SB 2305, because it will guarantee safe medical care for the women of North Dakota."
Abortion advocates, however, believe that these state legislative actions are a clear challenge to Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to get an abortion.
During her testimony before the state's Senate Judiciary Committee, Tammi Kromenaker, the director of the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo, said, "This is not fair to the women who have the constitutional right to one. If these bills pass, it would be tantamount to banning abortion."
SB 2303 passed by a vote of 25-22; SB 2305 passed by a vote of 30-17; and SCR 4009 passed with a 26-21 vote.
The bills will now move to the North Dakota House of Representatives, which is expected to approve the measures.