"Making sense of the North Dakota Prolife Bill HB 1450?"

Dianne N. Irving
Copyright February 12, 2011
Reproduced with Permission

There was a rather odd and confusing article on prolife legislation in North Dakota this week, "North Dakota House passes bill criminalizing killing unborn from conception".1 The bill itself, HB 1450, is supported by ND Right to Life, ND Life League, ND Family Alliance, ND CWFA, and the ND Catholic Conference.

The article noted that, "A strong majority of lawmakers in the North Dakota House of Representatives on Friday afternoon passed a law that would make it illegal to murder any human being from the moment of their conception." However, upon further investigation on the legislative website containing the bill, it is clear that the bill itself never uses the term "conception" at all. What the bill does state is that "a human being" is formally defined as "an individual member of the species homo sapiens at every stage of development." In addition, the term "person" is formally defined in the bill as including "all human beings".2 Nowhere in the bill is the term "conception" used. Therefore, the definition of "human being" in the bill would potentially cover all human beings. The term "conception" used in the article reporting on the bill would not. So what's with the term "conception" used in the article?

That is the first oddity.

The second oddity is that the term "conception" headlined in the article refers only to the sexual reproductive process of "fertilization" (fusion of sperm and oocyte). Additionally, since fertilization is a process (not a single event), various and thus contradictory points during that process could be claimed (illegitimately) as when a new human being begins to exist. (Of course, the Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development, the constantly updated since 1942 international "gold standard"3 of human embryology, has documented that the new human embryo begins to exist at first contact of the sperm and the oocyte at the beginning of the process of fertilization).4

The term "conception" can also mean "implantation" (5-7 days post-fertilization), and thus would not include any human beings still in the fallopian tube before implantation. The term "conception" can also mean "in the womb" (from implantation until birth), and would likewise not include any human beings still in the fallopian tube before implantation. Debates could also arise as to when during the various developmental stages of development "in the womb" until birth a new human being begins to exist. That is why human embryologists (e.g., Swiss human embryologist Ronan O'Rahilly) formally reject the term "conception" as vague and unscientific.5 In fact, the term "conception" is already legally defined as "implantation" in many state laws.6 Given that once a bill is passed into law, the courts are usually legally required to interpret the scientific definitions used in the bill as "exclusionary" (or, literally), the use of the term "conception" in any law would clearly not cover all innocent living human beings - to put it mildly.

So exactly how is the term "conception", used in this article (but not in the bill itself), to be understood? Obviously, if it means "implantation" or "in the womb", then, according to the article, the bill would not cover any human beings from fertilization to implantation, or from various possible developmental stages "in the womb" until birth -- and thus the use of abortifacients, prenatal genetic diagnosis, embryo flushing, and abortion, etc., would not be illegal. I guess those living innocent human beings/persons could be killed. But fortunately, the bill itself doesn't use the term "conception". Phewww!

A third oddity is that the term "conception" never refers to any human beings who have been asexually reproduced, i.e., without the immediate use of sperm and oocytes.7 That means that, if the article is correct, one of every two human identical (monozygotic) twins reproduced asexually and naturally within the woman's body could be killed. In addition, human beings artificially reproduced asexually in vitro in IVF/ART facilities as "infertility treatments" and then implanted into a woman's body could be killed - while these human beings are still in vitro, and even after being implanted into a woman's body and then aborted at any stage of development in the womb before birth. This would include, identical twins reproduced artificially in vitro by "twinning" (e.g., by "embryo multiplication", blastomere separation, blastocyst splitting). It would also include other human beings cloned by various genetic engineering techniques, e.g., pronuclei transfer, somantic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), germ line cell nuclear transfer (GLCNT), mitochondria transfer, the use of artificial genes, chromosomes, nuclei, etc.8 Thus all of these living innocent living human beings could be aborted, used in destructive experimental research, etc. (Anyone checked out these studies in PubMed recently, much less over the last 30 years?!) But fortunately, the bill doesn't use the term "conception". Phewww!

A fourth oddity, as the article notes, is that there are some "exceptions" in this bill. It prohibits chemical abortifacients such as RU-486, but "it does not apply to emergency contraception", or to "other contraception administered before a clinically diagnosable pregnancy." So, when in the state of Jesuitical doubt, just do it? Gee, I thought that if there is a doubt you just can't do it? However, even the manufacturers of these "emergency contraceptives" fully and publicly admit that, if fertilization has taken place, one of the mechanisms of their "chemicals" is to prevent an already existing human being who is moving through the fallopian tube from implanting in the uterus.9

So why would a bill that is supposed to protect all human beings make exceptions for these human beings? What about the all-inclusive claims of sponsors of the bill? Republican Rep. Gary Paur says that, "HB 1450 simply states that all human beings will be equal under North Dakota state law. Our law would treat all children as human beings." Does that mean that human beings already existing in the woman's fallopian tube when emergency "contraceptives" are used are not equal under North Dakota state law? And Representative Dan Ruby states, "The Defense of Human Life Act is just common sense. Of course every human being is a person, and every innocent person should receive legal protection." But if every human being is a human person and every innocent human person should receive legal protection, then why shouldn't innocent living human persons already existing in the woman's fallopian tube when emergency "contraceptives" are used receive legal protection too? Isn't that just "common sense"?

A fifth oddity is that the bill also exempts "legitimate medical procedures that may lead to the death of children in the womb when a woman's life is in danger", aka, abortion. But what about the "equal protection" that Reps. Paur and Ruby promise for all human beings? And if these exceptions are true, then why did the North Dakota Catholic Conference publicly or privately support the bill? Granted, morally speaking, many legitimate medical procedures can be used in such dire situations. However, the morally illegitimate procedure of abortion is not one of them, and is not permitted under any circumstances or for any reasons.10 Why? Because the lives of both human beings, who are both human persons, are equally precious. Nor is it morally permissible to directly and intentionally kill one of those human beings for the sake of the other human being. Nor is it ever permitted to do evil that good may come of it. Nor would such a bill be in accord with natural law, which is a requirement for morally legitimate legislation.11

Well, the whole thing is just so odd.
And confusing.
It just doesn't make sense.12
I think I'll go fishing.

1 See article on the recent North Dakota bill. [Back]

2 See the North Dakota bill, HB 1450, page 3. [Back]

3 "[H]uman embryology is scarcely more than one hundred years old. The first to study the human embryo systematically was Wilhelm His, Senior, who established the basis of reconstruction, i.e., the assembling of three-dimensional form from microscopic sections. His, who has been called the "Vesalium of human embryology," published his three-volume masterpiece Anatomie menschlicher Embryonen in 1880-85 [His, Vogel, Leipzig]. In it the human embryo was studied as a whole for the first time. ... A detailed Handbook of Human Embryology by Keibel and Mall appeared in 1910-12. Franklin P. Mall, who studied under His, established the Carnegie Embryological Collection in Baltimore and was the first person to stage human embryos (in 1914). Mall's collection soon became the most important repository of human embryos in the world and has ever since served as a 'Bureau of Standards'. Mall's successor, George L. Streeter, laid down the basis of the currently used staging system for human embryos (1942-48), which was completed by O'Rahilly (1973) and revised by O'Rahilly and Muller (1987)." (Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology & Teratology [New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001, p. ix]. [Back]

4 See the chart of all 23 Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C. For Stage 1. See also the new extensively documented and researched educational project, "Virtual Human Embryo", at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC), New Orleans. For Stage 1, see the "Introduction". See also, Dianne N. Irving, M.A., Ph.D., "'Virtual Human Embryo'" - Zygote Is Stage 1c, Not Stage 1a" (Feb. 6, 2011); also Irving, "The Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development: Chart of all 23 Stages, and Detailed Descriptions of Carnegie Stages 1 - 6" (April 22, 2006); also Irving and Kischer, "Responses to Dr. Condic's 'Science' in National Catholic Register Interview" (January 6, 2010); also Irving, "Condic's 'Pre-Zygote' Error in 'When Does Human Life Begin?'" (November 18, 2008). [Back]

5 "The term conception, however, may refer either to fertilization or to implantation and hence (like gestation) is best avoided." (Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology & Teratology (New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001, p. 19). [Back]

6 See Irving, "Neither, Nor: Bryne's and Willke's Pseudo-Battle Over Human Embryonic Stem Cells" (June 19, 2008). [Back]

7 For scientific references explaining asexual human reproduction, as well as those identifying a number of scientifically erroneous claims involving sexual human reproduction, see Irving and Kischer, "Scientific Response to Criticism of the California Human Rights Amendment as 'Protecting Fertilized Eggs'" (Dec. 9, 2009). For a more detailed explanation of asexual human reproduction, see the middle section of Irving, "Playing God by manipulating man: Facts and frauds of human cloning" (October 4, 2003), presented twice at the Missouri Catholic Conference Annual Assembly Workshop, Jefferson City, MO. [Back]

8 See Irving, "Scientific References, Human Genetic Engineering (Including Cloning): Artificial Human Embryos, Oocytes, Sperms, Chromosomes and Genes" (May 25, 2004); also Irving, "So You Think That 'Reproductive Cloning' Isn't Done Yet? Guess Again" (July 18, 2008); also Irving, "Analysis of Legislative and Regulatory Chaos in the U.S.: Asexual Human Reproduction and Genetic Engineering" (Oct. 20, 2004); also Irving, "American Medical Association's "Narrow Definitions", Legal "Re-definitions" ... and Reproductive Cloning" (October 9, 2009). [Back]

9 See direct quotes from the manufacturers in Irving, "Testimony Submitted to FDA Re Change of MAP to OTC Status" (Nov. 19, 2004). [Back]

10 For an in-depth treatment of the Principle of Double Effect", see Irving, "Abortion: Correct application of natural law theory", Linacre Quarterly (Feb. 2000). [Back]

11 See, e.g., Pope John Paul II, Evangelium vitae (1999), Chap. 3, "You shall not kill":

Par. 53: Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves 'the creative action of God', and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can, in any circumstance, claim for himself the right to destroy directly an innocent human being.

Par. 57: The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end. It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law; it contradicts the fundamental virtues of justice and charity. Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action. ... As far as the right to life is concerned, every innocent human being is absolutely equal to all others. This equality is the basis of all authentic social relationships which, to be truly such, can only be founded on truth and justice, recognizing and protecting every man and woman as a person and not as an object to be used.

Par. 58: Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable. The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an "unspeakable crime.

Par. 72. ... Every law made by man can be called a law insofar as it derives from the natural law. But if it is somehow opposed to the natural law, then it is not really a law but rather a corruption of the law. ... Now the first and most immediate application of this teaching concerns a human law which disregards the fundamental right and source of all other rights which is the right to life, a right belonging to every individual. Consequently, laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion or euthanasia are in complete opposition to the inviolable right to life proper to every individual; they thus deny the equality of everyone before the law.

Par. 73: In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to "take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it". (emphases added) [Back]

12 See Irving, "A One-Act Play: 'Crippled Consciences and the Human Embryo'" (November 17, 2010), at: ; also Irving, "Human Embryology and Church Teachings" (September 15, 2008). [Back]