The convincing defeat of North Dakota Measure 1, the so-called “personhood” constitutional amendment, again reveals sophistication among voters that now has been expressed twice at the ballot box. The first was just a couple of elections ago when an ill-conceived “religious freedom” constitutional amendment went down by a wide margin (64 percent “no”), confirming North Dakotans’ understanding that the state’s role in mandating anything about personal faith or nonfaith should be severely limited.
Tuesday’s resounding “no” on the personhood amendment was yet another unambiguous expression of the same sentiment that hammered down the religious freedom measure in 2012. Voters said keep the heavy hand of intrusive government out of the most personal, most private decisions that individuals and families make. Do not permit a specific religious doctrine from unduly influencing government, medical care and private family matters.
Faith is personal, as is medical care that affects reproductive and fertility medicine and end-of-life care. Keep it that way, the voters said.
The argument advanced by Measure 1 proponents – that national Planned Parenthood opposed the measure in order to advance the abortion agenda (PP does not perform abortions in North Dakota) – stumbled on proponents’ own claims that the measure had nothing to do with abortion. Furthermore, the “out-of-state” argument was phony because the North Dakota amendment was part of a larger strategy by a Colorado-based group that pushed similar ballot measures in other states.
Finally, the religious component in the Measure 1 debate (and the debate on the religious freedom measure two years ago) unsettles North Dakotans, who by a large majority say they are people of faith. Both measures had the imprimatur of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy and organizations allied with the church, if not all rank-and-file Catholics. Support from the pulpit was not exclusively Catholic, but an array of clergy from other denominations spoke out forcefully against the measure. And a few big mainline established congregations said nothing in support of the measure, thus tacitly opposing it.
Voters have been clear on this issue. They do not want government and/or a particular religious doctrine getting entangled in the doctor-patient relationship or, without invitation, in personal and private matters of life and death. Maybe legislative sponsors and other myopic supporters of such ballot abuse will get the message this time.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.