There’s an old Monty Python skit in which King Arthur duels against a Dark Knight who will not allow him to cross a foot bridge. When Arthur has chopped off both of the knight’s arms he declares victory and turns his back on his adversary only to be kicked by the now armless knight who is determined to fight on. Arthur proceeds to remove both of the knight’s legs and to move across the bridge while the dark knight, undeterred by his complete loss of limbs, continues to hurl insults and proclaim his imminent victory.
The recent crowing of those few North Dakotans who advocate for legal abortion is rather reminiscent of this skit. Over the last four years they have lost, repeatedly, at district conventions, in the June primary, in the November general election, at the ND House of Representatives, at theND Senate, in the Governor’s office, in the Attorney General’s office, in District Court and most recently at the ND Supreme Court. Yet the day after 3% of the legislative races and one ballot measure goes their way there they are, like an armless knight that just landed one kick,proclaiming their imminent victory.
Over the past four years pro life North Dakotans have provided care and support for mothers facing crisis pregnancies and their children. They have also introduced legislation to prohibit abortions past the 20th week of the child’s development, to require those who would perform abortions to first acquire emergency room admitting privileges, to prohibit abortions for the purpose of gender/disability discrimination, to end the dangerous long distance medication abortions that the Fargo clinic was practicing and to prohibit abortions when the about-to-be-born child is so thoroughly developed that their heartbeat can be detected.
Abortion advocates have accused pro lifers of dominating the legislature’s time (with 5 of the nearly 2,000 bills that the legislature has considered in the last two sessions?). They have insisted that the bills would not pass, that if they passed the governor would not sign them, that if he signed them the attorney general would not defend them, that if the attorney general defended them the state would lose in court and that if the laws were upheld in court they would not save a single life. On the road to nowhere these bills, abortion advocates claimed, would cost the Republican party their majority and bankrupt the state in legal fees.
Reality has not been kind to those predictions. Every one of the above listed laws are now in full effect except the heartbeat bill which our attorney general is currently defending at the 8th circuit court of appeals. Pro life advocates and even the director of the state’s lone abortion clinic have attributed to these laws a decline in the number of children killed by abortion in our state. Legal fees in defense of these bills have yet to exceed 0.005% of the state’s budget.
North Dakota’s pro lifers may have bit off more than they could chew with Measure 1. The resounding defeat of all 7 ballot measures that had any opposition indicates the inherent difficulty in passing a ballot measure and these campaigns play directly into the abortion lobby’s principle advantage (out-of-state money). By running from the abortion issue the opponents were able to defeat Measure 1 but, as noted above, the intended constitutional protection for the state’s pro life laws was essentially secured right before the election by the ND Supreme Court.
By again avoiding the abortion issue and pouring nearly all their money into two legislative races the Democrats were able to defeat two women who had sponsored pro life legislation in the last session. They were not able to defeat Senator Oley Larsen, who introduced legislationcompletely banning abortion, nor were they able to defeat Majority Leader Al Carlson, who delivered this impassioned speech on the floor of the House in support of last year’s pro life legislation. In fact, when a pro abortion organization updated its North Dakota “enemies list” the day after the election the list showed the name of practically every candidate who won last Tuesday.
North Dakota has taken the lead in the effort to extend equal protection under the law to about-to-be-born children. It is only the US Supreme Court that might hold us back and even abortion advocates acknowledge that four of the nine justices there would allow states to prohibit abortion. Poll after poll shows that young voters are the most staunchly pro life as improved ultra sound technology brings greater clarity to the equality of about-to-be-born children. The pro life message is even beginning to spread through pop culture. Across the country, of course, the pro life movement had a great election last week.
The advocates of legal abortion landed a cheap kick here in North Dakota last Tuesday. They will continue to gloat and to dismiss each pro life victory. But the truth is that while they hurl taunts and insults North Dakota’s pro life movement is moving on. Pro lifers swept the election of statewide officials last week. Their majority in the legislature is intact. The laws they have proposed are in place and saving lives each day. With the heartbeat bill North Dakota continues the push in federal court for equal protection under the law for about-to-be-born children. We may be approaching the limit of what can be done here on the state level but there can be no doubt that this great state will continue to lead the pro life movement wherever and whenever we see an opportunity to do so.