Thursday, February 19, 2009

North Dakota House Passes Bill Giving Rights to Fertilized Eggs

Yesterday, a bill in North Dakota that would give the rights of personhood to fertilized eggs passed the legislative House.
A measure approved by the North Dakota House gives a fertilized human egg the legal rights of a human being, a step that would essentially ban abortion in the state.

The bill is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that extended abortion rights nationwide, supporters of the legislation said.

Representatives voted 51-41 to approve the measure Tuesday. It now moves to the North Dakota Senate for its review.

The bill declares that "any organism with the genome of homo sapiens" is a person protected by rights granted by the North Dakota Constitution and state laws.

As the bill's sponsor Dan Ruby notes in this article, the bill is indeed a direct challenge to Roe vs. Wade. The goal is to outlaw abortion not only in North Dakota, but also to overturn a Supreme Court decision and render the procedure illegal in many states across the nation.

The bill would also quite arguably outlaw many types of birth control as well as abortion. This is because some types of birth control are believed to potentially prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. Implantation in the uterus is the first moment from when we can know that a pregnancy has been established -- indeed, it is how "pregnancy" itself is defined. And so, there actually is no way of knowing when a fertilized egg has been created without implanting; and therefore no way of proving that birth control does not have this kind of effect. This presents a whole host of logistical problems, potential court battles and almost certain rollbacks in women's rights and bodily autonomy. The practice of IVF would also be at serious risk, as it requires creating embryos while knowing that there is a high risk of them not implanting, or even not being used in an attempt to establish a pregnancy.

For more on all of these issues, see this previous post on the very similar Human Life Amendment. In the meantime, we will have to wait to see how this issue plays out in the North Dakota Senate, and hope that in a time when so many more important issues are on the table and the government is already strapped for cash, they will do the right thing by their citizens -- especially the female ones.

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