By a margin of 51 to 41, the North Dakota House on Tuesday voted to approve a measure that establishes legal rights for humans from the moment of conception in an effort that may challenge Roe v. Wade.
The measure, similar to proposals in four other states, now moves to the North Dakota Senate for review.
According to Fox News, the measure declares that “any organism with the genome of homo sapiens” is a person protected by the rights granted by North Dakota’s constitution and other state laws.
Measure sponsor Rep. Dan Ruby, a Republican from Minot, said the legislation did not automatically ban abortion unlike previous bills he has introduced.
"This language is not as aggressive as the direct ban legislation that I've proposed in the past," Ruby said during the House’s floor debate on Tuesday. "This is very simply defining when life begins, and giving that life some protections under our Constitution — the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Opponents of the measure argue it will cost millions to defend in the courts.
The Colorado-based group Personhood USA reports that this year bills have been introduced into the legislatures of Maryland, Montana, South Carolina and Alabama affirming the personhood rights of pre-born humans from the moment of fertilization.
Oregon has begun a personhood amendment petition drive and Mississippi’s personhood amendment petition drive is expected to launch within weeks.
A 2008 Colorado ballot initiative defining personhood from the moment of conception won only 27 percent of the vote.
According to Personhood USA, these efforts aim to fill the “Blackmun Hole” in Roe v. Wade. Justice Blackmun wrote in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that if it were established that the pre-born is a person, the argument for abortion collapses.
"Personhood USA is standing with strong support for all of these efforts. We are committed to working tirelessly to establish personhood in every State, because this is the only way to restore dignity to the humans most vulnerable among us," Cal Zastrow of Personhood USA remarked in a statement.