Ronald Fischer: Measure 1 Protects Civil Liberties


Several days ago most of the major newspapers in North Dakota ran a story entitled “Measure 1: A closer look at ND’s ‘right to life’ amendment.” That article quoted extensively from Steven Morrison, a teacher of constitutional law at the UND Law School. Morrison prefaced his comments by saying “I perfectly understand that they [supporters of Measure 1] have a moral position and that protecting life is important to them, and indeed it’s important to me as well.” Morrison goes on to state that Measure 1 is vague and could harm people with unintended consequences.

While Morrison claims he is concerned about protecting life, that claim fails to ring true when it comes to the life of the unborn. In that regard, in early 2013 Morrison provided written testimony to the North Dakota legislature in opposition to several bills limiting when an abortion can take place, including a bill (now law) preventing abortions based solely upon the gender of the child or whether the child has genetic abnormalities (such as Down Syndrome). Then, late last year Morrison filed a brief asking the North Dakota Supreme Court to uphold a decision by a state district court judge (Wickham Corwin) in Fargo finding there is virtually an unlimited right to an abortion under the North Dakota constitution.

With respect to Morrison’s claim that Measure 1 is “vague”, if that’s true, then the Declaration of Independence is also vague when it states in relevant part “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

When it comes to Measure 1, beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Folks like Morrison have an agenda, it seems to me, and it isn’t about protecting the life of the unborn.

Frankly, Measure 1 will not do any of the nasty things the opponents claim. Measure 1 will, however, protect our civil liberties, which is why I support it and will be voting yes. Let me tell you why you should be concerned and vote yes on Measure 1 too, separate and apart from the importance of protecting North Dakota’s abortion laws.

Although it wasn’t widely reported in the mainstream news media, recently Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, one of the chief architects of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and brother to President Obama’s former Chief-of-Staff (current Mayor of Chicago) Rahm Emanuel, published an opinion piece in The Atlantic entitled “Why I Hope to Die at 75.” Dr. Emanuel argues that people over the age of 75 are a drain on society and it would serve the common good if they would just die sooner rather than later. While Dr. Emanuel is clear that he is not advocating for euthanasia or assisted suicide, what he is doing is laying the groundwork for something much more insidious – age based rationing of health care by the government.

It must be understood that Dr. Emanuel is a utilitarianist. He believes the value of a person lies in his or her contribution to the economic structure of a society. Non-contributors are worth less than those who are economically productive and are therefore entitled to less of the community resources, including health care. Thus, under Dr. Emanuel’s thinking, young workers should get more of the available health care than those who are no longer working or unable to work.

What people like Dr. Emanuel sadly do not appreciate or understand is the tremendous value of our aged population that has nothing at all to do with economic value and productivity. I simply can’t imagine not knowing and having interacted with my grandparents, if they had been rationed healthcare and left to die when they reached some arbitrary and predetermined age. And I am witnessing first-hand the tremendous benefit my grandchildren are receiving by knowing, loving and being loved not only by their grandparents, but by their great-grandparents, most of whom are still living thanks to the wonders of modern medicine. Under Dr. Emanuel’s plan, thinking shared by many who created Obamacare, my grandchildren would not even know their great-grandparents.

I am convinced that as we move deeper into government control of our health care, absent constitutional protections such as Measure 1 would bring, we are rapidly approaching the time when at some arbitrary age (whether it be 75, as advocated by Dr. Emanuel, or some other age) virtually all health care will be denied, other than palliative care. For example, if your hip is broken and needs to be replaced, and you are over the predetermined age, you will just be put in a wheel chair, given pain medication, and allowed to die. That is just wrong.

Measure 1, if passed, will protect us from such an arbitrary result. It does that by mandating that human life at all stages of development must be respected and protected. It will leave with each of us, and not the government, the right to determine if and to what extent we wish to take advantage of health care to keep us alive as a blessing in our golden years for our children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren.

Now why should you believe me, you might ask? And that’s a fair question. Let me tell you a little about myself.

• I was born, raised and educated in North Dakota. Other than the five years I spent in Washington, DC, I’ve lived and worked in North Dakota my entire life.

• I’ve been practicing law for 34 years. I graduated with honors from the University of North Dakota Law School in 1980. I was hired right out of law school as a trial attorney with the United States Department of Justice in Washington, DC, under President Ronald Reagan. During my five years at the Justice Department I received multiple awards for outstanding service.

• In the spring of 1985 my wife and I decided to return to our home state with our three young sons, ages 5, 3 and 1. We returned to North Dakota because we wanted to raise our sons in a state that shaped and shared our values, and live close to our respective families so that our children could grow up knowing their grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. It is a decision we have never regretted.

• Over the course of my legal career, including the time I was with the Department of Justice, I’ve been privileged to litigate countless cases involving constitutional issues, both with respect to the federal constitution and state of North Dakota constitution. I consider myself a constitutional law expert.

• I’ve been honored with a number of awards, including a Fellowship in the American College of Trial Lawyers. The American College of Trial Lawyers, founded in 1950, is widely considered to be the premier professional organization in America . It is composed of the best of the trial bar from the United States and Canada . Fellowship in the College is by invitation, extended only after careful investigation, to those experienced trial lawyers who have demonstrated exceptional skill as advocates and whose professional careers have been marked by the highest standards of ethical conduct, professionalism and civility. Membership in the College is limited to no more than 1% of the lawyers in any State or Province.

• I am listed in the legal publication Best Lawyers in America under various categories of law, including First Amendment litigation.

In addition to having the legal and professional expertise to talk about the effect of Measure 1, I also have a very keen and personal interest in end-of-life issues. Twenty years ago, in 1994, I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, also known as non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. That cancer is now at stage IV. Although thanks to God I am successfully being treated for that cancer at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, if I had any doubt, any doubt whatsoever that Measure 1 would in any way affect my ability to make my own end-of-life decisions, I would not support Measure 1. The truth is, Measure 1 will not affect our right to make our own end-of-life decisions, or any of the other things the opponents are saying to try and scare you into voting no.

What Measure 1 will do is protect our civil liberties, and the common sense laws we now have on the books limiting when and under what circumstances an abortion can take place in North Dakota. Those that oppose Measure 1 are funded by out-of-state abortion money, by organizations such as Planned Parenthood, who have no interest whatsoever in end-of-life issues or IVF treatments. Their only interest is in having virtually an unlimited right to an abortion. Of course, they won’t tell you that because if they did Measure 1 would pass by a landslide. Instead, they make up things to try and scare you into voting no.

As President Franklin Roosevelt famously said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” A yes vote on Measure 1 means North Dakotans respect and protect life at all stages. A no vote means we don’t respect and protect life at all stages. It is that simple, and you don’t need to be a constitutional law scholar to figure that out. Don’t let the fear campaign fool you. Vote yes on Measure 1.