Tammi Kromenaker, director of Fargo’s Red River Women’s Clinic, testifies before the House Human Services Committee on Wednesday Jan. 31, 2013 in Bismarck, N.D. Kromenaker says proposed legislation that would impose more stringent restrictions on abortions in North Dakota are aimed at shutting down her clinic, which is North Dakota’s sole abortion provider. (AP Photo/James MacPherson)
North Dakota has only one abortion clinic and has been rated the worst state in the country for women, but the State Senate passed two bills on Thursday will make it even more difficult for women in the state to access abortion care.
North Dakota lawmakers passed a Personhood Constitutional Amendment initiative on Thursday that would amend the state's constitution to give legal rights and protections to human embryos. If the ballot initiative passes the House, North Dakota voters will decide on it during the 2014 elections.
"We are intending that it be a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, since Scalia said that the Supreme Court is waiting for states to raise a case," state Sen. Margaret Sitte (R), the sponsor of the personhood initiative, told HuffPost.
The Senate also passed a bill on Thursday that could shut down the North Dakota's one abortion clinic, the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, by requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. A similar law in Mississippi is currently threatening to close the only clinic in that state because the hospitals near the Jackson clinic are all refusing the applications of doctors who perform abortions.
Sitte said that while the bill could effectively end abortion in North Dakota, she supports the bill because it would protect women who experience medical complications after the procedure. "Yes, this bill could possibly close the abortion clinic [in Fargo]," she said. "I'm not saying that's the intention of the law. The intention of the law is to ensure that women have adequate health care and the follow-up care that they need."
The State Senate rejected a second personhood bill introduced by Sitte that would have made it difficult for women to use in vitro fertilization. The bill would have prohibited doctors from disposing of unused embryos after an in vitro cycle, which would force families to pay hundreds of dollars each year to keep the embryos frozen indefinitely. It would have also prevented women with cancer or other illnesses from using a sperm or egg donor to conceive through in vitro fertilization.
"It's like a bad episode of the twilight zone," said Rania Batrice, communications director the North Dakota Democratic Party. "These bills just open the door for every other state in the country to interject themselves into everybody's bedroom."
Sitte said she fully expects North Dakotans to pass the personhood measure in 2014, which declares “the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and defended.”
"We know North Dakotans are pro-life," she said. "This just puts a statement of fact into the Constitution."
Sarah Stoesz, the CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, expressed her disappointment on Thursday with the Senate's votes.
“Politicians in North Dakota are wasting taxpayer time advancing what would no doubt become another divisive constitutional amendment with dangerous unintended consequences for North Dakota families," she said in a statement. "
Planned Parenthood will continue to fight these legislative attacks on women’s health in partnership with a broad coalition of doctors, patients, teachers, lawyers and other concerned North Dakotans who do not want to see politicians inserting themselves into the private medical decision-making of women and families in our state.”