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A bill that would have given personhood status to a fertilized human egg was defeated by the Senate 29-16 on Friday.

The bill was pushed by pro-life groups looking to challenge the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. But opponents of the bill cited the potential for far-reaching, and potentially dangerous, legal consequences if the bill were to become law.

Sen. Curtis Olafson, R-Edinburg, said lawmakers should oppose the legislation because it could tie the hands of doctors and mothers trying to treat abnormal pregnancies or cancers because the fertilized embryo would have full legal rights under the bill.

"This raises many undesirable consequences involving criminal law, civil law and matters completely unrelated to protecting human life," Olafson said.

No senator stood to support the bill, which came to the floor with a 5-0 "do not pass" recommendation from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Chairman Sen. David Nething, R-Jamestown, has called the bill an "unworkable law."

Senate Majority Leader Bob Stenehjem, R-Bismarck, voted for the measure, while adding that if it should be reintroduced in future legislatures, then it should carry some exemptions to quell some of the legal concerns.

"I've always supported right to life with the caveat of life of the mother, rape and incest," Stenehjem said. "You would need some exemptions to this at least trying to pass it through in future legislatures."

Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, who introduced the legislation, called some of the arguments against his bill "ridiculous accusations." He said he's heard talk of an initiated measure in the vein of his defeated bill that could be introduced before the 2010 election.

"I think some of those ridiculous comments that Sen. Olafson made should have been answered," Ruby said, who was disappointed that lawmakers didn't stand to speak in support of his legislation.

He said he didn't think the life of a pregnant mother would be put into jeopardy just because the embryo would now have full legal status.

"To say they couldn't be treated for ectopic pregnancies, which is ridiculous, because that's when an egg is not implanted, it's not in the proper place, it's not even alive," Ruby said.

The bill would have defined a person as any organism with the genome of homo sapiens.

Medical professionals testified against the bill before lawmakers last month.

Tim Stanley, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood, said the legislation carried too many legal consequences that could have negatively impacted North Dakotans.

"This bill would have put the government in charge of personal health care decisions best left to women, their doctors and families - not politicians," Stanley said in a Friday statement.

The House passed the bill 51-41 in February.

(Reach reporter Brian Duggan at 223-8482 or brian.duggan.) @bismarcktribune.com

How they voted

State senators defeated HB1572 on Friday in a 29-16 vote. The bill would have defined a human as "any organism with the genome of homo sapiens." The intent of the bill's supporters was to challenge the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade.

Yeas: 16

Republicans: 15

Democrats: 1

Bill Bowman, R-Bowman

Randy Christmann, R-Hazen

Dwight Cook, R-Mandan

Dick Dever, R-Bismarck

Robert Erbele, R-Lehr

Layton Freborg, R-Underwood

David Hogue, R-Minot

Ralph Kilzer, R-Bismarck

Jerry Klein, R-Fessenden

Gary Lee, R-Casselton

Joe Miller, R-Park River

George Nodland, R-Dickinson

Larry Robinson, D-Valley City

Bob Stenehjem, R-Bismarck (Majority Leader)

Terry Wanzek, R-Jamestown

Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson

Nays: 29

Democrats: 18

Republicans: 11

Arden Anderson, D-Wahpeton

John Andrist, R-Crosby

JoNell Bakke, D-Grand Forks

Arthur Behm, D-Niagara

Jim Dotzenrod, D-Wyndmere

Tom Fiebiger, D-Fargo

Tom Fischer, R-Fargo

Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo

Tony Grindberg, R-Fargo

Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford

Ray Holmberg, R-Fargo

Robert Horne, D-Minot

Aaron Krauter, D-Regent

Karen Krebsbach, R-Minot

Judy Lee, R-West Fargo

Elroy Lindaas, D-Mayville

Stanley Lyson, R-Williston

Tim Mathern, D-Fargo

Dave Nething, R-Jamestown

David O'Connell, D-Lansford

Dave Oehlke, R-Devils Lake

Curtis Olafson, R-Edinburg

Jim Pomeroy, D-Fargo

Tracy Potter, D-Bismarck

Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks

Tom Seymour, D-Minot

Ryan Taylor, D-Towner

Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks

John Warner, D-Ryder

Absent or not voting: 2

Richard Marcellais, D-Belcourt

Carolyn Nelson, D-Fargo

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