Catholic bishops want personhood bill changedBISMARCK — North Dakota’s Roman Catholic bishops are seeking wholesale changes to the Legislature’s controversial personhood bill, House Bill 1572, saying it could “lead to unintended consequences and injustices.”
By: Janell Cole, The Dickinson Press
BISMARCK — North Dakota’s Roman Catholic bishops are seeking wholesale changes to the Legislature’s controversial personhood bill, House Bill 1572, saying it could “lead to unintended consequences and injustices.”
As it stands, the bill also wouldn’t challenge the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision, as its sponsor seeks, said Fargo Diocese Bishop Samuel Aquila and Bismarck Diocese Bishop Paul Zipfel in a joint statement Thursday.
They suggest changing it to a statement of legislative intent. They said they want to “remedy perceived problems with the bill’s current language.”
But HB 1572’s sponsor, Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, opposes the changes and wants the bill left alone.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear the bill at 9 a.m. Monday. It passed the House in February.
In legislative parlance, the bishops’ proposed changes are a “hoghouse amendment,” a term meaning the entire bill is replaced with new language.
They support the bill concept but, after consulting with legal experts, pro-life groups, ethicists and other Catholic officials, “it is very apparent to us that HB 1572, as written raises many unanswered questions, could lead to unintended consequences and injustices and would not achieve the goal of providing a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and its progeny.”
Ruby said he received a list of concerns from the North Dakota Catholic Conference, the collective name of the two dioceses, a few days ago but that they didn’t consult with him.
The bishops say their version is superior because it won’t commit the state solely to a “personhood” challenge to Roe v. Wade, which they said pro-life experts warn is a flawed strategy. Their change would ensure the law avoids penalties for women, uses an unambiguous definition of a human being and would ensure that the law’s effect is limited to protecting innocent life rather than affecting laws on government programs, redistricting and taxes. Their version also deletes “problematic language concerning interpretation of the state constitution. The state Legislature cannot dictate how the state constitution is interpreted.”
Ruby answered their issues in an e-mail he sent to all 47 senators on Wednesday. He noted that his bill does not reference “personhood” at all and is irrelevant to penalties for women.