Friday, April 29, 2011

Was HB 1450 The Defense of Human Life unworthy of a vote?

HB 1450 The Defense of Human Life bill unworthy of a vote suggests Sen. Curtis Olafson in his public statement, click here to see letter.

Below see a response to Sen. Olafson’s comments from representatives from North Dakota Family Alliance, Concerned Women for America, and ND Right to Life.

By Paul Maloney, Tom Freier and Janne Myrdal

BISMARCK — In his letter about HB 1450, Sen. Curtis Olafson, R-Edinburg, tried to justify his procedural trick that prevented a roll-call vote by insisting the bill was “poorly worded” and the work of “out-of-state extremists” (“Bill set N.D. up for expensive failure,” Page A4, April 19).

As leaders of North Dakota’s pro-life community, we feel compelled to set the record straight.

Olafson’s suggestion that the Defense of Human Life Act was not worthy of a roll-call vote in the Senate is absurd. The bill overwhelmingly passed the North Dakota House, 68-25, and received a 5-1 “do pass” recommendation from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill was crafted and honed with the collaboration of former state and federal prosecutors along with attorneys from many organizations (both statewide and national) with experience crafting and successfully defending pro-life legislation.

We fully accept the fact that there is disagreement as to what will be the best approach to end the evil of abortion in our great state and nation. But it is shockingly audacious to suggest this bill did not deserve a roll-call vote.
Olafson insists that he is “pro-life,” but along with his supporters, he also asserts that “HB 1450 never would withstand a constitutional challenge.” This assertion is not only conceited, but also a tragic misunderstanding of the separation of powers in this country.

If the North Dakota senators who supported Olafson’s tabling of the bill are so above the rest of us in their knowledge of the judiciary process, then where can a citizen ever go with a grievance? If decades-old decisions such as Roe v. Wade are invoked to prohibit our Legislature from even holding a roll call vote, then what opportunity for righting a wrong can ever be found?

There is no way in which the Constitution prohibits equal protection under the law for all human beings. A legislator who claims otherwise cannot be pro-life in any meaningful sense.

But the real questions concern Olafson’s conduct regarding HB 1450 and the vast discrepancy between his conduct and his rhetoric. Why did Olafson cut off the Senate debate on HB 1450 before even mentioning his concerns of a possible legal challenge? Why did he not mention this concern during the three weeks in which he met with us and other pro-life leaders in what he claimed was a good faith effort to clarify the intent and effect of the bill?

At the end of those three weeks, the language that Olafson himself had requested and which the Legislative Council drafted for him was added to the bill in order to protect in-vitro fertilization and life-saving medical treatment while also adding a rape/incest exception. Olafson then voted for the amendments and motioned to approve the bill in committee only to kill the bill the next day with a procedural trick on the Senate floor.

Why such appalling duplicity from a senator who claims to be pro-life?

North Dakotans expect and deserve integrity in their legislators. The “initiated measure process” that Olafson recommends is not meant to be the only way voters can be fairly and accurately represented in the state government.

We expect and deserve honesty in the committee process and a transparent vote on each bill. Olafson’s refusal to grant either is a betrayal of his obligation not only to his district but also to the state.

Maloney is executive director of North Dakota Right to Life, Freier is executive director of North Dakota Family Alliance Action and Myrdal is state director of Concerned Women for America of North Dakota.

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