As reported previously, North Dakota Catholic Bishops Paul A. Zipfel (Bismarck) and Samuel
J. Aquila (Fargo) flatly refused to endorse a bill criminalizing
abortion which was introduced in the North Dakota House of
Representatives on January 10, 2003.
House Bill 1242,introduced by Representative Sally Sandvig (D-Fargo)
at the request of Fargo pro-life attorney Peter Crary, creates a new
section of the North Dakota criminal code: A person is guilty of a
class AA felony if the person intentionally destroys or terminates the
life of a preborn child.
Child Protection Act.
News of the Bishops' position provoked lively discussion on the
internet, including Google Groups,
Catholic Family Radio, and
Traditio.com, an orthodox Catholic website, did not mince words
about mincing babies ("New Order Bishops
Sanction Murder"). A former student of
Bishop Zipfel emailed the diocese in dismay.
Walter Weber, Senior Litigation Counsel with the American Center
for Law and Justice, gave the Bishops the benefit of the doubt. Why
were they not supportive of HB 1242? "Presumably because including the
mother is practically unnecessary, historically of little
significance, and currently a huge lightning rod for pro-abortion
Mr. Crary's goal, however, was to up-end the abortion holocaust
morally and practically by providing the same degree of protection to
the unborn child that is afforded a born child. He sought "absolute
justice," for the unborn to counter the absolute injustice of
abortion-on-demand. Anything less would compromise the full humanity
of the unborn. "The unborn child, "he explained, "is as human as its
parents and deserves the same legal protection or greater."
Read Mr. Crary's essay "Abortion
as a AA Felony".
October, 2001 article
in the Fargo diocesan newspaper explains that the Bishops
deliberately adopted "the incremental approach"
to avoid the "right-wing extremism" label. The writer,
Christopher Dodson, Executive Director of the North Dakota Catholic
Conference, boasts that this approach "kept
the pro-life movement alive in the face of great opposition."
(Commentator Jim Rudd disagrees, labeling such compromise tactics as complicity with abortion. See
his article "Christians
Previously, on December, 12, 2000, the Bishops had
issued a "statement on
legislative proposals seeking to prohibit abortions."
Efforts at restricting abortion, however, must be reasonably
calculated to that end, have a realistic possibility of
withstanding constitutional scrutiny, not jeopardize existing
pro-life policies, and never punish the woman who, having had an
abortion, is a second victim.
This defeatist policy of deferring in the legislative arena to
Supreme Court decisions creating the abortion holocaust made the
automatic opponents of any legislation to outlaw abortion. It is not
surprising, therefore, that some challenged their sincerity.
We cannot reasonably and logically hold both that abortion is the
killing of a child and that a mother who commits this act is
Those bishops cannot be unaware of these things. Its just not
plausible. And for those reasons I reiterate that their reason for
opposing the law is transparently specious. I suspect their game might
be to sabotage effective laws by supporting weak ones.
Comment on FreeRepublic.com. As
Andrew Vanyo has written, a person cannot
logically be for something and against it at the same time: for
overturning Roe and also in favor of not challenging it. Pope
John Paul II leaves little room for accommodation with Roe: "In
the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting
abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it[.]"
Evangelium Vitae ¶ 73.
Judiciary Committee Hearing
On Wednesday, January 12, 2003, the House Judiciary Committee held a
two-hour hearing on the bill. The first hour was set aside for
proponents of the bill, the second for opponents. As is common in
legislative hearings (or in court cases), those supporting the
opposing positions seated themselves on opposite sides of the room.
That pattern obtained in the hearing room.
To the right of the podium were the supporters of the bill:
Attorney Peter Crary, individual pro-life citizens, a spokesman for
the American Life League and the Executive Director of its North
On the other side, sitting behind and to the left of the podium was
the speaker for the Fargo abortion mill and also His Excellency, Paul
A. Zipfel, Catholic Bishop of Bismarck as well as the Executive
Directors of both North Dakota Right to Life and the North Dakota
Proponents of HB 1242
Mr. Crary distributed to the Committee a letter written by Notre
Dame Law Professor Charles Rice endorsing HB 1242. "I have studied the
bill, " Professor Rice wrote to Rep. Sandvig, "and congratulate you on
Read Professor Rice's
letter endorsing HB 1242.
After presenting an impassioned plea for complete justice for the
unborn, Mr. Crary commented that his son, a 19-year-old Marine fresh
out of boot camp, had just been shipped out to the Persian Gulf the
night before. He challenged the committee: "Why should he risk his
life to defend the right to kill babies in Fargo?"
The Assistant Director for Public Policy at the
American Life League in Stafford, Virginia, followed with a careful
dissection of the arguments set forth by the North Dakota Catholic
Bishops. Their position that the law should not penalize the mother
who kills her unborn child, he stated, is "a political opinion, not a
teaching in faith or morals." Furthermore, "it actually violates the
clear teaching of the Catholic Church."
In the words of Fr. Tom Euteneuer, President of Human Life
International, insisting that there be no penalty for the mother
whatsoever is to "endorse the situation of decriminalized abortion
that Roe v. Wade gave us."
The American Life League representative termed it "unprecedented" for a Catholic Bishop to
testify in a legislative hearing against a bill to outlaw abortion.
Martin Wishnatsky, a Harvard Ph.D. and a resident of Fargo,
followed with sober observations about the inevitable penalty for
tolerating the shedding of innocent blood.
It is not the
abortionist, nor indeed even the Supreme Court, which shall bring the
wrath of God on America. It is the consent that we as citizens of this
state give to their acts and decrees by allowing these practices to
continue that will seal our judgment.
He emphasized that HB 1242 "creates legal equivalency between the
born and the unborn," thus erasing "the line of demarcation between
person and non-person." "We can bury Roe v.
Wade today," he concluded, "or we can endorse it. We cannot do
The North Dakota Life League, although requesting a lesser degree of
felony for the mother, endorsed the bill "because we must consider the
preborn child first and foremost."
Read statement of the
North Dakota Life League.
Opponents of the Bill
Bishop Zipfel stood up first. Calling
the bill to outlaw abortion "inconsistent with what it means to
respect life," he argued that it was unacceptable to impose
criminal penalties on the mother of the baby. Echoing the Bishops'
position, and also opposing the
bill, were Stacey Pfliiger, Executive Director of the
Right to Life Association and Christina Kindel, Executive Director of
the North Dakota Family Alliance, an affiliate of Focus on the Family.
"What is the correct means to ending abortion?" she asked. "We do not
believe the mother should be criminalized. We oppose this bill because
of its approach, its methodology."
Carol Sawicki, wife of a Physics Professor at North Dakota State
University, and an abortion mill worker, testified that the clinic
employees and the abortionist were "compassionate, caring and
generous." Carol Two Eagle gave a classic "pro-choice" argument for
letting women kill their children without interference. If a woman is
competent enough to raise a child, she argued, then she also has the
competence to kill it.
Bills such as HB 1242 make women who are productive intelligent
adults, less important than something that is not yet born, which is
not yet productive, and which is not intelligent.
Read the testimony of Bishop
Zipfel, Stacey Pfliiger,
Carol Sawicki, and
Carol Two Eagle.
For a commentary, see
"Truthified" testimony of Bishop Zipfel.
Later that day the Committee voted 11-2 against recommending
passage of HB 1242. Only Pat Galvin (R-Hazen) and Bette Grande
(R-Fargo) voted in favor of outlawing abortion in North Dakota. The
next day articles appeared in the Bismarck Tribune ("Abortion
Bill Creates Strange Bedfellows") and in the Forum (Fargo)
("Panel Rejects N.D. Abortion Ban Bill").
Under the procedural rules of the North Dakota legislature, all
bills, whether recommended by the Committee or not, come up for a
floor vote. Although there were rumors that an attempt would be made
to table the bill, HB 1242 came on for a final vote before the House
of Representatives on the afternoon of Tuesday, February 18, 2003.
Just prior to the vote Mr. Crary and the American
Life League sent final pleas to
Read the emails from Mr.
Crary and the American
Duane DeKrey (R-Pettibone), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, argued against
passage. Rep. Jim Kerzman, though pro-life at heart, said the bill
went "too far." Sponsor Sally Sandvig did not plead for the unborn,
but instead the right of a constituent to bring a matter before the
Legislative Assembly for consideration. She did conclude, however,
that the matter was in the hands of God, and that he was a "God of
If this bill passes, it will not be because of anything I have
done. It is in the hands of a higher power than myself. I have no
control over the results. I ask you to vote your conscience on this
bill. I realize it will take a miracle for this bill to pass, but then
I'm not in charge of miracles.
HB 1242 failed 13-79.
Good Morals New Service. All