James Kerian: Will Fear Mongering Kill Measure 1's Protections For Life?


“I don’t just believe life begins at conception; I know it as a scientific certainty.” – Dr. Ron Paul

Measure 1 on the ballot this fall will add the following phrase to Article I (The Declaration Of Rights) in our state constitution:

“The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”

The purpose of the measure is to increase constitutional protection of the pro-life laws that the legislature has enacted.  These include ensuring that women are given full disclosure of information prior to an abortion, providing that abortion can only be performed by licensed physicians with hospital admitting privileges to protect women in case of emergencies, making sure parents are notified if their daughter is seeking an abortion, and prohibiting the gruesome partial-birth abortion procedure.

When this measure was first introduced in the legislature I could not see how it was necessary.  It seemed obvious that the legislature had the authority to enact these laws and it seemed unthinkable that a North Dakota judge would strike them down or claim that they somehow conflicted with North Dakota’s constitution.  Last summer, however, Judge Wickham Corwin of North Dakota’s East Central Judicial District claimed to have discovered a fundamental right to abortion in North Dakota’s constitution and, therefore, struck down the state’s law regulating abortifacient drugs.  Shortly thereafter he also struck down North Dakota’s requirement that before performing an abortion a doctor must acquire admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Corwin’s first decision has been appealed to the ND Supreme Court and the lawsuit over the admitting privileges law has settled.  Nevertheless, his excursions in judicial activism have certainly clarified the value of further constitutional protection for our pro-life laws.  Fortunately during the last legislative session Measure 1 was approved by the senate judiciary committee, overwhelmingly passed the senate, received supermajority support in the house human services committee and near supermajority support in the full house of representatives.

North Dakota voters will, therefore, have the opportunity to approve Measure 1 this fall and to clarify that when North Dakota’sconstitution speaks of “inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty” we intend those rights to be recognized for everyone.

The opponents of Measure 1 have done everything they can to avoid talking about abortion.  They have claimed that Measure 1 will interfere with end-of-life decisions, criminalize miscarriage, ban in vitro fertilization, etc etc etc.  The claims get more absurd with each passing week but they all boil down to the repeated assertion that Measure 1 is “vauge and poorly written.”

It is a poll tested and time proven technique to throw mud at a ballot measure and try to create enough uncertainty, fear and confusion that people vote no simply because it seems safest not to change anything.  Time will tell if that strategy will work for the abortion lobby and their supporters here in North Dakota but it is easy to see now that these criticisms of Measure 1 are completely unfounded.

As mentioned above Measure 1 received overwhelming support in both the ND Senate and the ND House of Representatives.  This included majority support from both the attorneys and the medical doctors who serve in our legislature.  The supporters of Measure 1 have painstakingly assembled experts both in medical care and in ND law to explain in detail that this amendment to the constitution’s declaration of rights does not ban or criminalize anything.  The declaration of rights is not the criminal code.  The declaration of rights lays out broad (and yes, vague) principles to support specific laws (like the two that Corwin struck down) but in and of itself it does not prohibit anything.  No one has ever been prosecuted for violating the declaration of rights.

Look at section 1 of the declaration of rights:

“All individuals are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing and protecting property and reputation; pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness; and to keep and bear arms for the defense of their person, family, property, and the state, and for lawful hunting, recreational, and other lawful purposes, which shall not be infringed.”

Compare that to the new section that would be created by Measure 1:

“The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”

There are, as I mention above, plenty of experts in medicine and law who have debunked the scare mongering of Measure 1 opponents.  Honestly, however, anyone with a grade school education ought to be able to compare the two passages above and see that if section 1 is not dangerously “vague” then the new section created by Measure 1 is certainly safe.  Vote yes on Measure 1.