Medical students at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences are asking North Dakotans to vote no on Measure 1, a personhood measure on the state ballot this fall.

Alyssa and Taylor, two FMF National Campus Organizers, in the UND Memorial Union.

Alyssa and Taylor, two FMF National Campus Organizers, in the UND Memorial Union.

The students issued published a letter in the Grand Forks Herald stating that they opposed Measure 1 in part because they are against “the government’s taking control of the personal health care decisions of its citizens.” Nearly 60 UND School of Medicine students signed the letter, citing concerns over the “very broad and ambiguous language” used in the proposed amendment, which has no regard for serious and life-threatening medical situations such as ectopic pregnancies.

Measure 1 would change the North Dakota state constitution to create an “inalienable right to life” for humans “at any stage of development” – including the moment of fertilization and conception. If passed by North Dakota voters in this election, it will be the first personhood amendment to take hold in the United States, and would ban all abortions in the state, without exception, as well as outlaw many forms of birth control including the IUD, stem-cell research, and in vitro fertilization.

In their letter, the students also pointed out that Measure 1, if passed, could also dissuade doctors from practicing in the state. “[Measure 1] would make it less likely for many of us to choose to return home to practice medicine in North Dakota,” the letter read, “over some other state that does not carry the risk of criminal charges every time a woman who is of childbearing age and potentially pregnant steps into your emergency room, operating room or even clinic.” Many North Dakota’s communities are already experiencing a shortage of physicians, and the fear of fueling that shortage is serious.

Students in North Dakota have been leading the charge against Measure 1 by mobilizing and educating voters on campuses across the state with the help of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Campus Organizers.

“My peers and I are against Measure 1 because we trust women to make their own choices,” Emily Ramstad, a senior at North Dakota State University, wrote for the FMF CHOICES Feminist Campus Leadership Program blog. “We want to have the right to make choices for our own bodies and we want to feel safe in the state we live and go to school in. Voting no on Measure 1 ensures that, for the time being, we can.”

But students are not the only ones urging North Dakotans to vote no on Measure 1. The North Dakota Medical Association, which represents North Dakota doctors, opposes the measure, as do the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Several doctors providing in vitro fertilization in the state have also spoken out against Measure 1, saying that it would force the only clinic in North Dakota providing IVF to close. In addition, the AARP of North Dakota has also expressed concern that the Measure goes too far because it threatens end-of-life care, and other organizations have highlighted the Measure’s potential negative impact on organ donation

Early voting in North Dakota takes place from October 27 to October 31. Election Day is November 4. There is no voter registration in North Dakota, but an ID is required.

Media Resources: Grand Forks Herald 10/29/14; Feminist Newswire 10/22/14, 10/17/14; North Dakotans Against Measure 1, 10/20/14, 10/9/14; AARP North Dakota; Northern Plains Conference United Church of Christ; North Dakota Secretary of State; Feminist Campus 10/17/14

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