An earlier version of this story asserted that this legislation would head to the governor’s desk. It will actually head to the voters for consideration.
North Dakota lawmakers voted on Friday afternoon to pass a “personhood” abortion ban, which would endow fertilized eggs with all the rights of U.S. citizens and effectively outlaw abortion. The measure, which passed the Senate last month, passed the House by a 57-35 vote and now heads to a ballot vote, likely in the next November election.
A personhood ban could have far-reaching consequences even beyond abortion care, since it will charge doctors who damage embryos with criminal negligence. Doctors in the state say it will also prevent them from performing in vitro fertilization, and some medical professionals have vowed to leave the state if it is signed into law.
Personhood measures are so extreme that some pro-life Republicans in the state have come out against them, planning to join a pro-choice rally in the state capital on Monday to oppose the far-right abortion restriction. “We have stepped over the line,” Republican state Rep. Kathy Hawken (R-Fargo) said of the recent push to pass personhood. “North Dakota hasn’t even passed a primary seatbelt law, but we have the most invasive attack on women’s health anywhere.”
Personhood advocates have pushed their agenda in states throughout the country over the past several years, but their measures have so far been unable to advance. Anti-choice lawmakers in North Dakota, who have already pushed through a stringent six-week abortion ban, were actually considering two different types of personhood legislation — one to immediately amend the state’s constitution to redefine life as beginning at conception, and one to put a personhood amendment on the ballot. The House voted down the first and passed the second.