Panel rejects personhood billA Senate committee has unanimously recommended the Senate defeat the controversial personhood bill, House Bill 1572. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 5-0 for a do-not-pass motion Wed-nesday morning, the first day the Legislature was back at work following a weeklong flood-related recess. Sen. Tom Fiebiger, D-Fargo, was absent. Bill sponsor Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, said, “I guess I wasn’t surprised. I didn’t perceive any of them voting for the bill.”
By: By Janell Cole, N.D. Capitol Bureau, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — A Senate committee has unanimously recommended the Senate defeat the controversial personhood bill, House Bill 1572.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 5-0 for a do-not-pass motion Wed-nesday morning, the first day the Legislature was back at work following a weeklong flood-related recess. Sen. Tom Fiebiger, D-Fargo, was absent.
Bill sponsor Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, said, “I guess I wasn’t surprised. I didn’t perceive any of them voting for the bill.”
Ruby said the committee’s questions to him and other supporters during the hearing on March 16 were very similar to the concerns that bill opponents have raised.
The bill declares that according to North Dakota law and its constitution, a person or human being “includes any organism with the genome of homo sapiens.”
The bill passed the House in February, 51-41.
Supporters say it is a good way to give the state a position from which to challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
Opponents said it could outlaw some forms of contraception, prevent women from being treated for ectopic (tubal) pregnancies and drag the state into a prolonged, expensive court case.
Opponents, including Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, also said it could affect thousands of North Dakota laws that govern or refer to persons or individuals.
“We thank the Judiciary Committee for seeing (HB) 1572 as a broad, overreaching bill … a legal, medical and bureaucratic nightmare,” said Deb Arnold, a North Dakota advisory committee member for Planned Parenthood.
The Judiciary Committee declined to consider amendments that the North Dakota Roman Catholic bishops had suggested, said Sen. Curt Olafson, R-Edinburg, who was assigned to carry the bill to the floor for the committee.
Olafson said there was no discussion or debate among committee members.
“It was obvious everyone had done their own re-search and come to their own conclusion on the bill,” he said.
The bishops said in statements before the hearing that the bill as written would not do what supporters believed and would be a futile attack on Roe v. Wade.
The soonest the bill would appear on the Senate’s floor calendar is today but the actual day the Senate would vote is not fixed.
Ruby opposed the bishops’ amendments. He thinks that some senators may attempt to attach the bishops’ amendments during floor action, so they have “something to take back to their constituents” who favor the bill.
Olafson said Wednesday that most of the e-mails to senators from bill supporters say they don’t want it amended.
The Senate Judiciary Committee also, on a split vote, is recommending passage of another abortion bill.
It voted Wednesday 3-2 for a do-pass recommendation on House Bill 1445. The bill requires abortion providers to tell women before the procedure that it will destroy the life of a unique human being.
Supporters say it is a matter of providing wo-men with the most information possible to make an informed decision. Opponents, including Planned Parenthood, say the bill assumes women cannot make their own decisions and that it forces political ideology into the doctor-patient relationship.
Fiebiger was also absent for that vote. He said later that had he been at the meeting, the committee’s vote on HB 1572 would have been 6-0 and the vote on the do-pass for HB 1445 would have been 3-3, a result that would have sent it to the Senate floor without committee recommendation.
HB 1445 passed the House, 61-3, in February.
Cole works for Forum
Communications Co., which
owns The Jamestown Sun