As published in the Fargo Forum on 11/5/14
by Ryan Johnson
FARGO – A controversial proposal to add a “right to life” amendment to North Dakota’s constitution was rejected by voters Tuesday.
ND Choose Life, the main coalition calling for Measure 1’s approval, conceded defeat 90 minutes after the polls closed at 8 p.m., saying in a statement the group was “very disappointed” but “not deterred or dissuaded from the cause of life.”
With all precincts reporting, 64 percent (160,728 total votes) had voted against the measure, while 36 percent (89,888) voted for it.
Opponents said the vote sent a message to legislators, who voted during the 2013 session to put the amendment on the ballot.
The primary sponsor of the ballot measure, a Bismarck state senator, lost her bid for re-election Tuesday. Rep. Bette Grande, R-Fargo, a prominent supporter of the amendment who served in the House since 1997, also lost. She was beat by Democrat Pamela Anderson and her Republican counterpart in District 41, Al Carlson.
“Today, North Dakota voters decided that they do not want government intervening in their most personal medical decisions from pregnancy to end-of-life,” said Karla Rose Hanson, spokeswoman for the North Dakotans Against Measure 1 coalition.
Renee Stromme, executive director of the North Dakota Women’s Network, said women sent a clear message on Election Day.
“It’s time to move our state forward and set aside attempts to infringe on women’s health,” she said.
Sarah Stoesz, president of the Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota Action Fund that contributed to the measure’s opposition, released a statement offering her “deepest congratulations” to North Dakotans Against Measure 1.
Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup said it was a victory in a state where women face “extreme” abortion restrictions.
“It’s time for North Dakota politicians to remember that message when they return to the capital for a new session in January,” Northup said.
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said North Dakotans “saw through right-wing extremists’ attempts to insert a highly controversial measure into the state’s constitution.”
But ND Choose Life said its cause got a boost from the debate, even if the amendment was rejected.
“We did not win a political battle tonight, but we have captured a great deal of ground as a result of the campaign, and we are well-positioned to win the war for life in North Dakota in the future,” the group said in its statement.
Measure 1 would have added to the state constitution: “The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”
While proponents said it was necessary to protect the Legislature’s ability to pass abortion restrictions, opponents warned of unintended consequences that could come from what they said was vague wording.
The primary sponsor of the resolution that put Measure 1 on the ballot, Sen. Margaret Sitte, R-Bismarck, was defeated by Democrat Erin Oban on Tuesday in her bid for re-election 41 percent to 58 percent. Oban raised $66,610 in donations, according to finance reports, while Sitte raised $48,779 – unusually large amounts of fundraising for a North Dakota legislative race.