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Senate defeats personhood bill

BISMARCK -- The Senate voted 29-16 Friday to defeat the controversial House Bill 1572, known as the personhood bill, with no debate.

Sen. Curt Olafson, R-Edinburg, the only person who spoke on it, said the bill would create more serious legal consequences for the state than any bill he's ever seen as a lawmaker.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, had brought national attention to the state. Ruby and supporters said it would give the state standing to attack the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the U.S.

The bill said that for the purposes of the North Dakota constitution and all its laws, a person or human being "includes any organism with the genome of homo sapiens."

The House passed the bill in February on a 51-41 vote.

Olafson presented the Senate Judiciary Committee's reasons for recommending the bill be defeated and also his personal concerns with it.

He said it "reaches far beyond protecting human rights" into unrelated consequence because it declares all fertilized embryos persons for the purposes of myriad laws that have nothing to do protecting human rights.

A physician "faces an impossible dilemma" if needing to treat a pregnant woman for cancer that could harm a fetus or embryo, or a woman experiencing an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, he said.

Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota released a statement Friday calling the defeated bill "poorly constructed" and which would have outlawed contraception as well as medical procedures needed to treat tubal pregnancies and infertility.

It "would have had a profound impact on the state, affecting everything from when property rights are granted to inheritance rights to access to the courts," the organization said.

The Senate passed two other abortion bills, House Bill 1445 and House Bill 1371, both of which earlier passed the House.

House Bill 1445 requires abortion providers to inform the woman that the procedure would destroy the life of a unique human being. It passed on a 34-11 vote.

House Bill 1371 requires abortion providers to tell the woman that she has the right to see an ultrasound image of the fetus before the procedure. Senators passed it on a 44-1 vote.