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Fresh Eyes Column

by Caroline Downs

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A funny thing happened on the way to road repairs and property tax relief . . .

Posted 3/27/13 (Wed)

So I thought this session of the North Dakota State Legislature was supposed to be about fixing roads in western North Dakota, providing property tax relief, funding needs for law enforcement, child care, schools, sewer systems and water supply in oil country, and making plans for flood control in Fargo and Minot.

That’s what I heard from the men and women elected to the state offices in November.

What I heard from the two District 4 representatives and one District 4 senator.

And what I heard from meetings held last spring, summer and fall as various state agencies and departments traversed the counties of western North Dakota, seeking input from residents on the issues that have cropped up out here because of booming oil and gas development.

So where the heck do abortion bills fit in?

Apparently, front and center before the North Dakota legislature and governor.

You can have your opinion about abortion and I can have mine, and that’s all fine.

My concern is the amount of time and attention getting diverted in Bismarck from issues impacting every resident of this state to an issue most likely being raised by entities outside North Dakota.

I don’t recall many state candidates talking about abortion laws while they were campaigning, but North Dakota lawmakers and their comments about the topic are getting splashed all over national television and radio programs these days.

This is a heartwrenching, gutwrenching, controversial topic--has been ever since 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court announced its Roe v. Wade ruling.

I’m a child of the 1970s, so yes, I heard about Roe v. Wade and lived with the news of abortion clinic bombings and murders of doctors who performed abortions and threats made against women seeking abortions and all kinds of impassioned rhetoric on both sides of the issue.

Five years after Roe v. Wade, the first “test tube” baby was born, which raised another set of concerns about the definition of human life. In this case, in vitro fertilization led to opportunities and hopes for childless couples to start families--and to more impassioned rhetoric about the ethics involved.

In the 40 years since Roe v. Wade and the 35 years since Baby Louise Brown appeared, no middle ground has been achieved and nothing I can say about either subject is going to convince anyone on the “other” side to change his or her mind.

But consider this: you and I know women who have had an abortion, whether by choice or for health reasons, although we may not “know” the exact circumstances. As difficult as the topic is to discuss, facing an abortion for any reason is infinitely more excruciating. Women don’t just run willy-nilly to a clinic to have a procedure done and doctors don’t randomly advise abortions to make a pregnant woman feel better.

And you and I know couples who became parents through IVF options. In fact, we know their children, although again we may not “know” this circumstance about a particular family.

So what happens when a pregnant woman, mother to two or three other children already, has complications that threaten her life and a doctor must allow her to suffer, perhaps even die, because a state law prevents intervention?

What happens to our friends and neighbors in THIS community who are suddenly criminalized if they attempt to conceive a child through IVF procedures because a state law prohibits such treatment of embryos?

I have my personal views about the various abortion laws and I’m not saying the current laws are perfect, but many of those decisions should be deferred to the individuals directly involved and in consultation with health care professionals.

I know ND legislators have agonized over these issues, but I say get back to the matters you promised to handle this session.

Road repairs, flood control and tax relief--and the thousands of citizens impacted by these topics on a daily basis--are waiting.