North Dakotans will vote on a “personhood” amendment

personhood-eggThere’s a reason North Dakota just won MoJo‘s Anti-Choice Champion award. Not even a week after passing a “heartbeat” bill, the state has approved a personhood amendment that would give fertilized eggs legal rights. Who needs a 6-week abortion ban if you can just outlaw the procedure altogether?

North Dakota became the first state on Friday to pass a fetal personhood amendment, which grants legal personhood rights to embryos from the moment of fertilization. The state House of Representatives voted 57 to 35 to pass the amendment, after the Senate passed the same measure last month.

The measure will now appear on the November 2014 ballot, and voters will be able to accept or reject it. If it passes, it will amend North Dakota’s constitution to state that “the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.” The amendment would ban abortion in the state, without exceptions for rape, incest or life of the mother, and it could affect the legality of some forms of birth control, stem cell research and in vitro fertilization.

You’ll remember that personhood amendments have failed pretty miserably when they’ve been on the ballot in Mississippi and Colorado in recent years. Turns out, when push comes to shove, most voters are not fans of criminalizing abortion and birth control. It’s also probably not a good sign for the amendment’s proponents that even Republican legislators spoke out against it. “We have stepped over the line,” said Republican state Rep. Kathy Hawken. “North Dakota hasn’t even passed a primary seatbelt law, but we have the most invasive attack on womens health anywhere…There are all kinds of other things we need to be doing besides this.”

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St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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