To: House Human Services Committee
From: Christopher T. Dodson, Executive Director
Subject: House Bill 1456 - Abortion After Detectable Heartbeat
Date: January 30, 2013

The North Dakota Catholic Conference supports House Bill 1456.

House Bill 1456 reflects a basic truth: “The respect given to an individual human person must always be first and must govern every law and action so that the person’s life and dignity is always and everywhere protected and defended. ” (Bishop David D. Kagan, October 19, 2012.)

Certainly, HB 1456 would prohibit only abortions where the heartbeat of the unborn child is detected and it does raise some new legal questions. But the questions are not with merit. Currently, the US Supreme Court only allows states to protect unborn life after the point of viability, which is when an unborn child can survive outside the womb.  The Supreme Court chose viability because it understood viability to be a significant marker of human development.  Close reflection, however, reveals that viability is not a measure of human development. It is really only a measure of the medical technology available to a newborn, and as technology improves, viability changes.  Viability as a marker is inherently suspect and unjust because it is dependent upon time, place, and circumstance.

A heartbeat, however, is a marker that actually reflects the development of the unborn child. It is wrong that the courts will only allow states to protect some unborn children and not all of them.  However, if the courts insist on only allowing protections for unborn children that are developed to a certain extent, the existence of a heartbeat provides a better basis than viability. 

We urge Do Pass recommendation on House Bill 1456.