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North Dakota lawmakers consider banning abortions

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

North Dakota lawmakers are considering banning all abortions within the state. This latest move is in reaction to "personhood" measures, which have gained traction within the state. "Personhood" defines life as beginning at conception. Two such measures were passed there last month.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Personhood measure have been drawing opposition from some doctors. They claim it causes problems for infertile couples seeking to use in vitro fertilization to conceive. Personhood supporters insist that those issues are already addressed in the legislation.

Fargo infertility specialist Dr. Stephanie Dahl says that the personhood measures could ban in vitro fertilization and force doctors to leave the state rather than face health care restrictions or possible criminal penalties.

In vitro fertilization, or IVF, involves mixing egg and sperm in a laboratory dish and transferring resulting embryos into the womb.

"This is something that would affect the patient and doctor relationship," Dahl said at a news conference. "That's somewhere we want to keep the government out of."

One of the key players in the anti-abortion campaign, state Sen. Margaret Sitte, a Republican from Bismarck, said she was "floored" by the assertions about limitations on in vitro fertilization. She said the proposals allow exceptions for the "screening, collecting, preparing, transferring, or cryo-preserving a human being created through in vitro fertilization for the purpose of being transferred to a human uterus." Sitte said that clause was crafted with Dahl's help.

One such medico, Dr. Steffen Christensen, who founded an in vitro fertilization clinic in Fargo 19 years ago, says he can't put himself or his workers at risk of legal action.

"The concern is that this is criminal negligence if anything should happen to an embryo," he said.

An attorney for Personhood USA, Gualberto Garcia Jones, noted that two doctors in the Senate - Fargo Republican Spencer Berry and Bismarck Republican Ralph Kilzer - voted for the proposals. "Clearly they would not vote to criminalize themselves," Jones said in a phone interview.

Opponents also say that the North Dakota Medical Association is against the bill and a group of 26 students from the University of North Dakota medical school signed a letter to the state Senate against it.

North Dakota is one of several states with Republican-controlled Legislatures and GOP governors. The state has gone much further than any other in challenging the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 decision that legalized abortion.

The Legislature sent Gov. Jack Dalrymple last week two of the most restrictive abortion laws in the U.S. One bans abortions as early as six weeks in a pregnancy, on the basis of genetic defects such as Down syndrome. Abortion-rights activists have vowed to fight the measures in court.

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