The media narrative taking shape around the slate of pro-life bills passed by the state legislature has made it sound as though this legislation is somehow extreme. Grand Forks Herald publisher Mike Jacobs wrote that the passage of these bills illustrates that “zealotry has free rein” in the legislature. “Extremists not interested in abortion middle ground,” read the headline over Fargo Forum columnist Jane Ahlin’s column this week (it’s worth noting that Ahlin has ties to Planned Parenthood she doesn’t disclose).
“A dedicated cabal of zealots has been pushing the [pro-life] legislation,” wrote opinion editor Jack Zaleski for the Fargo Forum. “They have threatened political consequences if lawmakers don’t vote their way. Legislators who normally are motivated by common sense have been cowed. It’s been a disappointing spectacle to see good legislators tumble like pawns in the zealots’ political chess game.”
First, you have to marvel at how ideologically homogenous the commentators in the North Dakota media are. In a state dominated by Republicans, there’s not a single consistent right-of-center voice in the state’s mainstream media. Yet, they pretend to be unbiased. Ha.
Second, and to my point, what if I told you that every one of these “extreme” pieces of legislation that are supposedly the work of “zealots” were very much bi-partisan?
The House pro-life bills passed by the Senate had very strong support from Democrats. In the House, 26% of the Democrat caucus voted for both HB1305 (a ban on abortions for genetic selection) and HB1456 (a ban on abortions when a heartbeat is detected) with just one Democrat missing the vote.
In the Senate, 35% of the Democrat caucus voted for HB1305 and 21% voted for HB1456.
The Senate pro-life bills were a little more party-line, but still enjoyed support from some Democrats. In the House votes taken on Friday, SB2305 (requiring hospital admitting privileges for abortionists) had a single democrat vote. SB2368 (the personhood bill) has two Democrat votes. SCR4009 (enshrining the idea that life exists at all stages of development) had 3 Democrat votes. SB2303 (inserting SCR4009’s definition of life into the criminal code) had two Democrat votes.
Again, that’s not a lot of bi-partisan support, but then the legislature itself isn’t very bi-partisan. There just aren’t a lot of Democrats serving there (a lot of the Democrats serving there call themselves Republicans).
So not only did every single one of these bills, with the exception of SB2303 which failed in the House, not only had majority support but bi-partisan support. Quite a lot of bi-partisan support, in some instances.
Now, we can all agree or disagree with whether or not the legislature has made the right decisions with these votes. But calling all of this legislation “extreme” or the work of “zealots” is to insult a bi-partisan majority in both houses of the legislature who were, in turn, elected by a majority of the people of North Dakota.
On a related note, I had to laugh when I saw that Rep. Kathy Hawken (ostensibly a Republican who has lent her name and party affiliation to the pro-abortion activists) didn’t vote on a single one of these pro-life bills. Hawken may oppose them publicly, but she apparently lacks the gumption to turn words into votes.
Maybe she didn’t want to get dinged with the pro-life groups put out their vote rankings.