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The North Dakota Coalition for Privacy in Health Care

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What is Personhood Legislation?


Personhood legislation declares that the constitutional rights of human beings apply from the moment that fertilization of an egg begins. This means that a single-cell zygote is the legal and moral equivalent of any other human being, and would possess all the same rights and protections as its mother.


The goal of the personhood movement is to end elective abortion. However, if passed, a personhood law could have many far-reaching, negative effects on the people of this state and our state laws. Because of this, the Coalition opposes personhood legislation.


No state has passed personhood into law and several states, including Mississippi and Colorado, have defeated it at the ballot. The Oklahoma Supreme Court declared personhood legislation to be unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal on that ruling.


What Impact Would a Personhood Law Have?


Women's Health Care


Infertility Services:

Couples who want to bring new life into the world could be devastated by this anti-family legislation. A personhood law could ban in vitro fertilization (IVF) and affect families who are storing frozen embryos. Learn more about the impact to IVF.


Pregnancy Care: 

This law could make it difficult for doctors to help women with life-threatening ectopic pregnancies and incomplete miscarriages because they may be compelled to treat embryos and women equally. As a result, women's lives and health will be at risk.


Birth Control:

Some forms of birth control could be banned, causing more unintended pregnancies. Already, 40% of pregnancies are unintended.



A woman who miscarries may be subject to criminal charges of homicide, manslaughter or reckless endangerment since the nature of the pregnancy loss could be questioned.


Abortion Services: 

All abortion services would be banned. Victims of rape and incest could be forced to carry a pregnancy that resulted from sexual violence. Women whose health is at risk could also be prohibited from terminating their pregnancies.


Out of Touch:

In January 2013, Pew Research found that only 29% of Americans would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned. Even people who define themselves as pro-life see a need for safe and legal abortions.


Unintended Consequences


End-of-Life Decisions:

Because the amendment requires the protection of life at any stage, it may impact end-of-life care. It could nullify living wills and advance directives that instruct caregivers to stop life support. Prolonging life support beyond a desired point would be costly to families and affect organ donation.


Access to Doctors

Many established physicians across the state and many medical students from the University of North Dakota testified that they would not practice in our state if personhood became law. The state already has a shortage of doctors, and home-grown physicians are a significant source of our medical care. We should not pass a law that drives them away.


Religious Freedom:

A personhood law would force one religious view onto all citizens through law - infringing on our religious freedom. Not every religion believes that life begins at conception. For example, in the Jewish faith, people believe life begins at birth. 


National Media Attention:

If North Dakota becomes the first state in the U.S. to pass this extreme legislation, we would get even more national media attention - securing a reputation for our state that prevents many people from wanting to work and live here.  


Costly Legal Impact 



The stated intent of the personhood laws is to challenge Roe v Wade but such a challenge would be unsuccessful.In October 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a 'personhood' case, leaving in place a lower court’s decision that found that a personhood measure in Oklahoma would violate the Constitution.


Fiscally Irresponsible:

If North Dakota is the first state to pass a personhood law, it will likely result in costly litigation. Let's not waste millions of taxpayer dollars to defend an extreme law that has already been found unconstitutional. The state already faces high costs to defend the other extreme abortions laws signed by the governor.


Legal Questions:

A personhood law prompts questions about all laws referring to a person, resulting in costly reviews and changes. For example, do we start issuing conception certificates instead of birth certificates in North Dakota as the new legal document for each person?


Law Enforcement Costs:

With a personhood law in place, law enforcement could be required to protect life at any stage of development. The investigation, prosecution and defense of crimes against any person, even embryos, will cost taxpayers money and clog up courts even further.  



Personhood Legislation in ND


Three pieces of personhood legislation were advanced during the 2013 North Dakota Legislative Assembly. Senate Bill (SB) 2302 and SB 2303 were defeated.

The third, Senate Concurrent Resolution 4009, is a constitutional amendment that was passed by the state House and Senate. It will appear on the November 2014 ballot for a vote by the people. View the roll call votes for the legislation here.



Parents Against Personhood


Parents Against Personhood is a great site for FAQs, news and information about legislation in other states.