Kathy Hawken, Other North Dakota Republicans Protest Personhood Amendments Which Would Outlaw Abortions


North Dakota's extreme personhood amendment is going to the state ballot for 2014, prompting a group of Republican lawmakers to join pro-choice advocates in opposing the new restrictions.

Contrary to most initial reports, the North Dakota House voted on two personhood amendments last week; the one that would have immediately amended the state's constitution was not passed, while the one that sends this same amendment to the ballot was. The amendment would outlaw abortion in all cases, punish doctors who perform the procedure, and ban in vitro fertilization, some forms of birth control, and stem cell research.

On Tuesday, Governor Jack Dalrymple signed three anti-abortion bills (HB 1305, HB 1456, and SB 2305), making North Dakota the state with the most abortion restrictions in the U.S., in what many consider to be a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.

But not all Republicans in the state agree with Dalrymple. State Rep. Kathy Hawken (R-Fargo) is leading the charge against the proposed amendment, along with approximately 10 colleagues.

"One of the key tenets of the Republican Party is personal responsibility," she said. "I'm personally pro-life, but I vote pro-choice, because you can't make that decision for anyone else. You just can't."

But Hawken's "pro-life" views evidently contrast those of her colleagues. A prenatal care for minors bill and a bill ensuring childcare for single parents were both rejected by the House.

"It seems like we want to get [babies] here," she said, "but we don't care if they're healthy once they get here. That's just bad policy."

In an article for The Daily Beast, Hawken shamed her state for being "poised to win the state-by-state race to the bottom on women's health." Even Mississippi, one of the most socially conservative states in the nation, rejected a personhood initiative.

She also discussed the fiscal issues associated with the amendment and asked why this should take precedence over "relieving property taxes, protecting higher education funding, or fixing the roads."

North Dakota anti-choice lawmakers are preoccupied with preventing abortions, this much is clear. But in passing this amendment, they are completely ignoring the hard truth that, indeed, more birth control means fewer abortions. It seems incredibly counterproductive for lawmakers to insist that eliminating both would be a good thing, especially considering the rates of unwanted pregnancies and deaths due to unsafe abortion would most definitely increase.

"They could fund my childcare bill with what we're going to spend on lawsuits [defending the personhood amendment]," Hawken said. "Can't we let Arkansas be the poster child for this? Why does it have to be us?"

Hawken and the like-minded Republican lawmakers were present at a Stand Up for Women rally Monday night in Minot, ND, where women across the state gathered to protest the proposed amendment. ThinkProgress reports that hundreds of women showed up for the protests, though Gov. Dalrymple appears to have paid them and their objections no mind.