The ‘Worst State For Women’ Just Got Even Worse

shutterstock_111708281The whole state of North Dakota only has one abortion clinic, but apparently that’s one too many for state legislators. The State Senate passed two bills on Thursday that will make it even harder to access abortion. The “worst state” in the country for women just got even worse, with the passing of the Personhood Constitutional Amendment initiative.

The Personhood Constitutional Amendment initiative would enable the state to amend its constitution to give legal rights to human embryos. Fantastic. As if it’s not hard enough to fight the government to be able to make choices about your body. Now you’re basically fighting against your own embryo. As if an embryo wasn’t just a mass of cells, but a thinking, feeling entity that was able to debate you for a say in the matter.

“We are intending that it be a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, since Scalia said that the Supreme Court is waiting for states to raise a case,” state Sen. Margaret Sitte (R), the sponsor of the personhood initiative, told HuffPost.  No kidding.

The Senate also passed a bill that could potentially shut down the only clinic that performs abortions in the state, by requiring doctors who perform the procedure to have admitting privileges at the local hospital. This loophole would be so damaging because due to harassment and threats most doctors that perform abortions at the clinic come from out of town. They certainly wouldn’t have privileges at local hospitals. The chance of the doctors getting these privileges are slim because neighboring hospitals may not want to draw the same threats and harassment.

“Yes, this bill could possibly close the abortion clinic [in Fargo],” Sitte said. “I’m not saying that’s the intention of the law. The intention of the law is to ensure that women have adequate health care and the follow-up care that they need.”

I call bullshit. She just admitted she wanted to directly challenge Roe v. Wade. Now she says it’s not her intention to shut down the only clinic in her state that provides abortions.

The State Senate rejected a second personhood bill introduced by Sitte that would have made it difficult for women to use in vitro fertilization. The bill would have prohibited doctors from disposing of unused embryos after an in vitro cycle, which would force families to pay hundreds of dollars each year to keep the embryos frozen indefinitely. It would have also prevented women with cancer or other illnesses from using a sperm or egg donor to conceive through in vitro fertilization.

This woman is a piece of work. Am I the only one that can’t actually believe we are still having conversations like these in 2013? Abortion has been safe and legal for 40 years – and it’s one of the most important victories of the women’s movement. Why are we entering this horrifying time machine?

Sarah Stoesz, the CEO of Planned Parenthood in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota told the Huffington Post:

“Politicians in North Dakota are wasting taxpayer time advancing what would no doubt become another divisive constitutional amendment with dangerous unintended consequences for North Dakota families,” she said in a statement. “Planned Parenthood will continue to fight these legislative attacks on women’s health in partnership with a broad coalition of doctors, patients, teachers, lawyers and other concerned North Dakotans who do not want to see politicians inserting themselves into the private medical decision-making of women and families in our state.”

It seems that North Dakota has someone speaking out for the embryos. We should all be thankful there’s someone speaking out for women, too.

(photo: Alliance/

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  • Nat

    If an embryo/fetus is a person… will women who miscarry be charged with manslaughter? If there are twin fetus’ and one absorbs the other, which happens, will the surviving fetus be charged with murder upon birth? To what extent are people willing to go? And if every life is precious, why are so many people dying of organ failure? Shouldn’t it be required to donate viable organs to save the lives of others?

    • Marie Scott

      Why would a woman who miscarries be charged with manslaughter? She lacks the requisite intent or negligence. Miscarriage is a natural phenomenom. Your arguments lack substance.

    • Kel

      So if a woman smokes and has a miscarriage caused by smoking, or is an alcoholic and her alcoholism causes a miscarriage, is it manslaughter then?

    • CrazyFor Kate

      Or she eats sushi before discovering she’s pregnant, or stops suddenly in the car and gets the seatbelt across her abdomen, or, or…

    • meteor_echo

      But you didn’t answer the second part of the question.
      Also, if the fetus is a person and its mother doesn’t want it, can it be charged for unlawful use of the mother’s body, mental abuse, or rape? After all, it is perpetrating the mother’s body for 9 months, and causing her emotional (and physical) suffering. What can you say about that? And no, “don’t spread your legs” is not an answer here.

    • Stina Wargo Kolling

      manslaughter doesn’t require intent, and proof of “negligence” would be easy enough with a miscarriage. after all, if a woman miscarries, it’s obviously her fault for doing something wrong, right? that’s how intelligently these people think.

  • JennJ

    I am from ND and for the first time, am ashamed to say that. I agree with Nat and have written to legislators with the same questions. One of the bills says that an abortion cannot be performed if a heartbeat is detected, which means that most abortions will not be performed. It also means that fertility clinics in the state may be closed due to the new issues. I am embarrassed to live in a state that takes what should be a private decision and makes one explain why-another part of the bill says that abortions cannot be performed in the cases of birth defects and other problems.

    My hope is that this bill is challenged in the courts and will be overturned so that women can make their own choices.

    Also, this bill was passed but another bill was not passed that provided milk to low-income children! This year, our legislature is a disgrace!

    • Marie Scott

      Your comment clearly delineates why the article was in error when it stated that a fetus was “just a mass of tissue.” That is when you stated that if a heartbeat was detected, most abortions would not take place. I am not without compassion for those who have unwanted pregnancies. I had my first two children by the time I was 19. But a heartbeat indicates a human being.

    • meteor_echo

      Not all human beings are welcome inside our bodies. Also, excuse me, but parasites also have what can be determined as heartbeat – ringworms, for example. It doesn’t mean we should keep them.

      ” I am not without compassion for those who have unwanted pregnancies.”
      Yes, you are. You are siding with people who want women to be punished by having to go on with those pregnancies.

    • Michelle

      Ringworm is the term used to describe a fungal infection, it is not a parasite.

    • meteor_echo

      Welp, I guess I mixed up some terms. But – even fungus is alive, which doesn’t mean it’s welcome on our bodies.

    • Michelle

      True that.

    • K.

      It sounds like you are arguing that if there is a heartbeat, then doctors shouldn’t be able to perform an abortion. That in turn means that you would be in support of a ban on abortions for embryos as little as 4 weeks old, or 2 weeks post-conception because that’s the estimated time when a heartbeat develops (although pregnant women will not be able to detect the heartbeat until about 7 weeks). Bear in mind that the baby is still an embryo at this point, and that we are talking about only a month post-conception (2-5 weeks post last menstrual cycle)–meaning, some women would have no idea that they are pregnant.

      Your thoughts regarding a heartbeat = human being are nice…but irrelevant. I mean, I can say that a human being = when sperm meets egg, or I can say a human being = legal, 18-year old adult, or human being = only those allowed to have Facebook pages. There’s really no way that your view on that is any more or less valid than the alternatives I proposed. That’s a philosophical issue. In response to your perspective, I can argue that the very fact that we have these debates puts a fetus in a lesser category than the mother–we are unsure as to whether a fetus is a person, but there’s no debating that the mother is definitely a person. I am not willing to override the actual rights of the mother for the theoretical rights of her fetus.

      I am confused by your statement about unwanted pregnancies and your own personal reproductive history. What difference does it make what you decided to do and why should you be the standard for all other women (which is what you imply when you say, “Well *I* did xyz, therefore everyone should do xyz.”) Your reproductive history doesn’t give you any more or less credence on the issue than mine. It also doesn’t have any relevant relationship to whether you are compassionate or not regarding women who have unwanted pregnancies. I mean, I guess you can feel like your own experiences qualify you to understand the plight of women who are considering abortion, but that would suggest you might have some autocratic illusions.

  • Emmali Lucia

    Good God.

    Just… Good freakin’ God.

    A state actually passed the person hood legislature?

    If my state passed anything like that I’d move instantly, I don’t care if I have a good paying job, my extended family, or anything else. I would rather live in poverty, alone, than have any of my rights taken away.

  • CrazyFor Kate

    I’m honestly considering assisting North Dakotan women who want to come to Manitoba or Sask. for an abortion, and would encourage other Canadians (especially those who live in the aforementioned provinces) to do the same. Looks like pretty soon most of America’s going to be up a certain creek. Handmaid’s Tale, guys, Handmaid’s Tale.

  • Lisa

    They’re protecting the “lives” of implanted embryos but not those of frozen ones. I’m disgusted and frankly contemptuous but not entirely shocked. Of course they can get plenty of people to agree to a bill infringing choice in someone else’s life but not one that might restrict their access to fertility treatments. This is a big problem behind the “Personhood” movement. Rich and middle-class people are not going to be happy if you start cutting them off from aggressively pursuing having a child.

    And, sadly, what’s going to happen in America if they do cut off access to abortions is the same thing that happens everywhere else. Women and girls will start dying from botched abortions. Some will fail and have disabled children, others will end up permanently sterile from infection or injury. Rich people will continue to have abortions performed by family physicians. The rate of infant mortality and infanticide will rise, as will the rate of child abandonment. And many more people will grow up in poverty, with all its many associated evils. It was for all of these reasons that the Women’s Rights movement pushed for safe, legal access to birth control and abortion.

    Unfortunately, I’m starting to think the only solution is the same one for the rise in non-vaccinated children. We will just have to wait for a major outbreak of a disease like Polio, leaving some children dead and others crippled for life. I don’t want that to happen but some people apparently won’t learn until they see in front of them the consequences of their foolish choice. It makes me sick to my stomach that women, children and babies might have to die just so these people can learn a lesson we’ve known the answer to for decades.

  • Marie Scott

    Wow! I can’t believe in this century we are still reducing “women’s issues” to just one; contraception and abortion. (Technically two, but interelated). And since when is abortion “safe” for a fetus?? Hmmm… Sorry, but not just a mass of cells.

    • Paul White

      So, you can’t support readily available contraception without supporting abortion?
      I’ve got news for you: you can, and I do. Hand out condoms and the pill like they’re frigging candy as far as I’m concerned.

    • meteor_echo

      You are awesome.

    • jessica

      No. You’re the one who is reducing it to just contraception and abortion. This article just happens to be about the personhood amendment passed in North Dakota so , yes, everyone is talking about abortion here.

    • Karen

      Right, that’s what women’s rights activists should be working on: making abortions safe for fetuses! Give us all a break and get off the internet.

  • K.

    Personhood arguments are pointless. There is no end-result that will ever be proven; the humanity or non-humanity of a fetus is simply an endless debate for philosophers. A fetus . . . is a fetus. To that point, I am in *loose* agreement with the pro-personhood side of the debate in that I don’t think that the fetus should be rendered invisible or “just cells.” It is NOT a human being, but it is a potential human being. It deserves to be respected as such.

    However, I think that what the whole pro-personhood argument, within the framework of its pro-life agenda, is premised on is the perception that no one wants to acknowledge the validity of the fetus and moreover, that pro-choice women don’t want to acknowledge it. This is not true. The pro-choice movement acknowledges that terminating a pregnancy means terminating the life of a fetus. We get it. An abortion means killing a potential human. Women who consider abortions are aware of this. Yet, women have abortions anyway because they feel that their own health and well-being outweighs that of the fetus’. And that is their right because they are free human beings who can make decisions regarding their own bodies.

    The pro-personhood/pro-life argument is premised on the idea that abortion is tantamount to one human murdering another. That’s also not true, or it’s a grossly inaccurate way to think about it. The relationship between a fetus and a mother is unlike any other human relationship–the fetus is completely and totally dependent on one specific woman–its mother–and it cannot survive without her until a certain age (and even then, extremely premature babies must have extensive medical care with a low survivor rate). And by “her” I mean the precise individual who is its mother because whereas full-grown babies can survive in the hands of surrogate caretakers, fetuses require the mother they are implanted in. We cannot grow fetuses in test tubes; we cannot transplant them into secondary wombs. So this idea that the fetus and the mother are on a 1:1 equal footing is inaccurate–the fetus is dependent upon its mother and therefore, her existence is primary, its existence is secondary.

    In addition, it is not legal for one human to live in another human’s body, as a fetus does. So, if someone wants to argue that a woman and a fetus are equal–equal human beings, with equal rights, and we pass a bill that says fetuses are people, then I propose a bill that says based on the idea that a fetus is a person, then it should be able to live as a person, which is to say that it should be able to survive outside of the womb without assistance for autonomic functions (respiration, metabolic and cardiac functioning). If a woman doesn’t want to give birth and take care of the baby and the fetus is considered a viable human in its own right, then we should simply remove the fetus from the womb and see how it does. Sound good?

    • Katia

      Fact they dont remove the fetus intact . It looks like a small baby. The mother terminating its life does not want to see that. No person wants to See afetus suffer struggle or be cut up so the life terminating is done more discretely
      Pro choice people never talk about the actualact. Thats something you dont want to ‘own’ i bet

    • Karen

      Actually I don’t mind owning that at all. It may seem gruesome to some, and you’re right; nobody wants to go into detail about how abortions are performed, but don’t you think you’re grasping at straws? We’ve come to terms with it, because it’s far better than shoving coat-hangers into ourselves and slowly bleeding out in back alleys-which, by the way, kills both the mother and a potential human life. But maybe that’s something you ‘pro-life’ people have trouble owning.

    • K.

      You are right, that I don’t know exactly how abortions are performed at different points of pregnancy and, since I myself have never had one and I’m not a doctor, I’ve never seen it done. It’s difficult to understand what you are saying because the syntax is convoluted, but overall, you appear to be saying that you are against the procedure because it is violent. I can respect that.
      And let me say from the get-go: I am pro-choice, but I am still profoundly grateful for people who have pro-life convictions because if our culture didn’t have people who believe in the sanctity of life above all else, it would be a
      very bad sign. Abortion is not a morality-free zone and that, to me, is one of the most important things to preserve about it. The conversation between both sides is important in producing that understanding.

      To your points, I don’t think that today’s pro-choice advocates seek to sanitize the actual act and I don’t think that they “never talk about it.” I’ll give you this: as much as the pro-choice side ignores the corporeal reality of a fetus, so to the pro-life side tends to get their information on the procedure from political lobbies, rather than actual medical doctors. I can guess this might be the case with you because the whole idea of not removing a fetus in tact or it looking like a small baby only pertains to fetuses who have reached a certain point in gestation, which I would say sounds at least 2nd trimester. Many abortions take place in the 1st trimester in which the fetus looks nothing like a baby and is small enough to be extracted intact. And your statement seems to assume that the way the procedure is performed has something to do with politics (ie, making it so women don’t have to confront the results of the act), when I would wager that the way it is performed is determined by what is the safest option medically. But to that end, to respond in kind, do you know how a “backstreet abortion” is performed and what that looks like? Such methods include trying to pierce the amniotic sac with a knitting needle or coat hanger or pumping the woman’s body full of Lysol–I’m willing to bet those aren’t very pretty either, for baby OR mother.

      I also think that the assumption on the pro-life side, tends to be that women who get abortions don’t fully understand what is going on in terms of the ins and outs of the procedure. In some cases, this might very well be true, but not because of a lack of information–it might be because individual women don’t want a run-down of the procedure and request that they be exempt from hearing it. This might not satisfy preferred ethics, and I understand that. However, understand that the ethics of abortion are not one-size-fits-all. At all. I have known a woman who had to have a late-term abortion because her child had a form of spina bifida (sp?), which is when the baby fails to develop a spine and it wasn’t possible to detect until very late. She made the decision to terminate on the advice of her doctor who told her that labor and delivery would mean extreme trauma and pain for the baby, and that upon being born, the baby would live, in complete terror and suffering for 1-2 minutes before it succumbed to suffocation. Bear in mind this was a woman who WANTED the baby and made the decision based on what she thought was the moral better of two terrible options. And so, would you blame this woman if she asked her doctor to refrain from a run-down of the procedure or that she declined to see her baby afterwards?

      I fully admit that this story is not the norm, but it DID happen and she was not the only woman to experience it. And so I submit to you that before you make widespread proclamations on what women do and do not want to “own,” you should think long and hard about your assumption that women who get abortions are all the same woman who have the same procedure for the same reason. They are not. Those of use in the pro-choice movement (or at least those that I know!) respect the fact that abortion is a complicated issue and a devastating reality for some women and we support the perspective that such a decision should be left up to the individual woman, her doctor, and her God.