BISMARCK, N.D. -- A measure approved by the North Dakota House gives a fertilized human egg the legal rights of a human being, a step that would essentially ban abortion in the state.
The bill is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that extended abortion rights nationwide, supporters of the legislation said.
Representatives voted 51-41 to approve the measure Tuesday. It now moves to the North Dakota Senate for its review.
The bill declares that "any organism with the genome of homo sapiens" is a person protected by rights granted by the North Dakota Constitution and state laws.
The measure's sponsor, Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, said the legislation did not automatically ban abortion. Ruby has introduced bills in previous sessions of the Legislature to prohibit abortion in North Dakota.
"This language is not as aggressive as the direct ban legislation that I've proposed in the past," Ruby said during House 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."
Critics of the measure say it will cost millions of dollars to defend. Ruby said the state has been willing to go to bat for other principles that were less important.
In Oklahoma, meanwhile, a state House committee Tuesday approved legislation that would prohibit physicians from performing abortions solely on account of the gender of a woman's fetus, even though the measure's author said there is no evidence the practice has ever occurred in the state.
The legislation passed 20-2 by the House Public Health Committee. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.
The author of the bill, Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa, said it is designed to stop couples from using the gender of a fetus as a reason to get an abortion. Sullivan said a doctor would be prohibited from performing an abortion if the mother specifically said the fetus' sex was the reason.
However, he said there is no evidence the practice has occurred in Oklahoma. "I haven't received any definite information that proves it," Sullivan said.