To: Senate Human Services Committee
From: Christopher T. Dodson, Executive Director
Subject: Senate Bill 2409 (Alternatives to Abortion Services Program)
Date: February 7, 2005

The North Dakota Catholic Conference urges passage of Senate Bill 2409.

Senate Bill 2409 addresses a true human service need in our state. Each year, about 10% of all North Dakota pregnant women feel compelled to choose abortion as the solution to a crisis pregnancy. The number of women in that situation reached over 800 last year.

No matter what a person’s view about whether there should be a constitutional right to abortion, nearly all people of good will would agree that this situation is tragic. Every abortion is a tragedy. Behind each tragedy there is a woman and a set of circumstances that led that woman to feel she had no other choice. Perhaps the most tragic part of the matter is that other, better choices existed, but too often no one was there to hold her hand, talk to her, and help her work through the situation.

An alternatives to abortion services program would help us reach those women and give them the information, counseling, and support services to assist them choose childbirth and make informed decisions regarding adoption or parenting. Similar programs exist in Pennsylvania and Missouri. A program focusing on just college students is planned for Michigan. These programs build upon and assist the many volunteer and private efforts to help these women. State assistance would help these efforts to become more professional, more known, and reach more women.

On favoring childbirth or abortion the state is not neutral – it favors childbirth. On helping women in need, the state is not, and should not be, neutral, especially with regards to the problems that most often lead a woman to consider abortion, such as addiction, or the lack of housing, education, a job, parental support, or parenting skills.

It simply makes sense that the state would invest something to address this need. Doing so would not only give women hope, but it would help further the state’s efforts to reduce the need for economic assistance, child support enforcement, and future unplanned pregnancies.

We have looked at this issue for some time, including issues regarding administration, funding, and constitutionality. We will try to provide any information the committee requests.

We believe that such a program is not only an important part, but may be a necessary part building a culture of life so that no woman ever feels compelled to choose abortion. We urge the committee to give a Do Pass recommendation to Senate Bill 2409.