As published in the Bismarck Tribune on 11/1/14
by Colleen Reinke, Bismarck
Those who assert that Measure 1 will do “nothing” if it is added to our state’s constitution do not understand constitutional law. Black’s Law Dictionary defines “constitution” as ‘“the written instrument agreed upon by the people … as the absolute rule of action and decision for all departments … and officers of government in respect to all the points covered by it.”
For example, we are all familiar with Miranda rights. In 1966, Miranda sued to have his confession to rape and murder thrown out, claiming he was not informed of his constitutional rights before confessing. The U.S. Supreme Court threw his confession out, determining that people in custody had a constitutional right to be informed that they could remain silent and have an attorney appointed for them. Miranda became the law of the land and made for much better television thereafter. No statute or regulation was involved.
If Measure 1 passes, every future governmental action and every current and future law regarding protection of human life will be judged as either constitutional (valid) or unconstitutional (invalid) based on first our constitution and then the U.S. Constitution.
We don’t know exactly how things will play out if Measure 1 passes. We know the courts will not rely on Sen. Margaret Sitte’s testimony and statements about her intent, nor on the promises of various letter writers when they interpret the North Dakota Constitution. The courts will look at the language of the amendment and judge all laws and state actions accordingly.
Make no mistake, constitutional provisions are law. They have immediate consequences.