Dangerous legislation

Dr. Kristen Cain, Fargo

The North Dakota Legislature is advancing extreme legislation that would give a fertilized egg the same legal rights and protections as you and I have within the North Dakota criminal code. This “personhood bill’ SB 2303-is now being considered in the House. This means that IVF providers in the state face criminal prosecution with imprisonment and loss of our medical license if an embryo is lost or discarded. Abortion providers would also be guilty of homicide under this law. As an infertility doctor in North Dakota, who cares for women in the earliest stages of pregnancy and cares for their pre-pregnancy embryos, I am gravely concerned about this bill.

The goal of the bill is to stop abortion in North Dakota by prosecuting abortion providers with homicide. Although clumsy exemptions were added in an attempt to soften the bill’s language and make it more acceptable, some IVF procedures would still be restricted and infertility services in our state would remain at great risk. These amendments would also create confusion and lead to uncertainties as to when a physician can treat serious conditions to the mother such as early ectopic pregnancy, incomplete miscarriage, premature rupture of membranes, heart disease, severe toxemia, and the myriad other conditions that can become much worse during pregnancy. When your life is on the line, do you really want your doctor checking state law to ensure your necessary medical treatment is approved by the North Dakota legislature?

With this bill, doctors risk jail time and loss of their medical license if anyone interprets their actions to be in violation of the law. This bill could also criminalize doctors who deal with end-of-life issues such as hospice and organ transplantation. Legislating medical care in this way will make it even harder to recruit doctors to North Dakota. Fewer physicians means more limited access to health care for all North Dakotans-women, men and children. Personhood legislation that make the practice of medicine a crime will cripple infertility services in this state and hamstring doctors in all areas of practice. Tell your legislators to vote NO on SB 2303 and to stay out of your doctor’s office.