To: House Human Services Committee
From: Christopher T. Dodson, Executive Director
Subject: SCR 4009 - Constitutional Right to Life
Date: March 13, 2013

The North Dakota Catholic Conference supports SCR 4009 because it gives the people of North Dakota the opportunity to decide whether the state should recognize a legal right to life for all North Dakotans.

A state constitutional amendment respecting the right to life is not unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that states may enact their own laws and constitutional provisions to protect human life, including unborn human life. Nor is a state constitutional amendment respecting the right to life made moot by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on abortion. It can guide the interpretation of existing and future state laws by all branches of state government. From time to time legal questions arise regarding unborn children - and even the right to abortion - that are not made dispositive by the abortion decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. The resolution of those questions rightly belongs to the states, but sometimes the state’s courts and executive offices can be left without constitutional guidance. SCR 4009 would provide that guidance.1

Opponents of any recognition of the unborn child have conjured up all kinds of claims about SCR 4009, including that it would ban abortion, in vitro fertilization, and contraception. SCR 4009 does not ban anything. It would take an act of the legislature to do that and even then the act could not contravene the directives of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Let’s affirm in our state constitution that which this Legislative Assembly and the people of North Dakota consistently affirmed with its laws - that every human being has a right to life that should be respected and protected to the greatest extent possible. We urge a Do Pass recommendation on HCR 4009.

1 Legislation passed last session is currently tied up in court because the abortion clinic in Fargo is claiming that the North Dakota Constitution grants a “right to abortion” that is greater in scope than the right found in the U.S. Constitution.