“Government . . . Must Not Play God”

BISMARCK, ND—North Dakota’s Governor today vetoed what would have been the strictest anti-abortion bill in the nation. The bill would have banned abortions except in cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life was in danger.

            ”History is full of accounts of the misuse of governmental power, often for a ‘good’ cause,” the Governor said in his veto message, issued less than two hours after he formally received the bill. “Such abuse must be resisted vigorously on both sides. Government must not overstep its bounds. It must not play God.”

            The Governor, a farmer from Casselton in Cass County who enjoys generally wide popularity and was returned to the office in the last election by a wide margin, was facing the first abortion bill to come to his desk since taking office.

            The Governor, who has said he is personally against abortion, was barred by the North Dakota Constitution from threatening a veto. He said earlier that the bill went ”too far.”

No, I’m not predicting what Jack Dalrymple will do this week when faced with signing or vetoing a bill that has been called the “strictest anti-abortion bill in the nation.” I’m reprinting the quotes from Governor George Sinner in the first few paragraphs of an April 2, 1991 story in the New York Times. To quote further from the AP story:

Sinner, a Roman Catholic and father of 10 who once considered studying to be a priest, referred to statements on abortion from eight religious denominations in his four-page veto message.

            ”Although throughout history Catholic writings on when life begins vary widely, I agree with the current Catholic judgment that abortion is wrong,” Sinner said. ”The issue here, however, is the role of law.”

            The legislation declares that life begins at conception, but many people dispute when life begins, Sinner said.

            ”Government policy must find a balanced way which respects the freedom of women in this difficult area,” he said. ”This bill does not do so.”

Well, that’s what a courageous chief executive does when faced with a difficult decision. Sinner also knew, of course, as does Dalrymple, that if he signed the bill, he was committing the state to a lengthy and expensive legal challenge. And he knew that the state was unlikely to win that battle, and that the state would be the subject of some scorn and ridicule, and be viewed as a “backwoods” state for even making the attempt.

Fast forward 22 years, and numerous fruitless legal challenges to Roe V. Wade, the law of the land when it comes to abortion. The fact that both Governors are Cass County farmers is about where the similarities end. I don’t know what Dalrymple will do this week, but I know he’s getting a lot of mail, e-mail and phone messages.

A friend of mine, who’s also a friend of Jack’s (imagine that—he’s one open-minded man) sent me a copy of the letter he sent to Jack yesterday. Here’s what it said:

Dear Jack,
I doubt very much that you will listen to my appeal to you, but I am asking you to veto the ridiculous, and, most likely, unconstitutional abortion bills, passed by this Legislature, the very worst on record for smiting human rights. I have supported you. I voted for you. Please do not become an accomplice to the most horrible anti-human rights person in the history of the North Dakota Senate, Margaret Sitte, whom I know personally. And loath.
She is just plain mean. The meanest of mean. While proclaiming Christianity.
From the several occasions when we have had the opportunity to meet, one time, with your son, at (a hunting club), you were very friendly and struck me as a man of reason. I certainly enjoyed our hunt together.

            You are the only official left who can take a stand for personal rights in North Dakota. You are the only one left to keep us from being the laughing stock of the nation for discriminating against anyone who is not heterosexual, or the machinations of Margaret Sitte, who wants the state, in her own law, to dictate what a woman can do with her own reproductive organs.
I hope you will not let me down on this.


Well. My friend is not alone in sending a stern message to Jack Dalrymple. Here’s a paragraph from the editorial in Sunday’s Forum of Fargo Moorhead, whose viewpoint is generally pretty conservative, commenting on two remaining abortion bills still alive in the Legislature, as well as the two that have passed:

Two bills in the North Dakota Legislature violate basic precepts of conservative Republican doctrine. The misnamed “personhood” bill and a proposed constitutional amendment (for the ballot) that purports to define life “at any stage of development” are outrageous intrusions of government into the most private and personal issues facing North Dakotans. Both measures should be defeated on that basis alone. Two related bills, which are equally ill-advised, earlier passed the House and Senate. Gov. Jack Dalrymple should veto both.

Of course, the Forum’s position is that of true conservatives—decrying intrusions of government into private and personal issues. It’s the adjective “outrageous” that caught my attention.

Way back in my life when I lived in Mandan, my State Senator was a truly conservative man named Jan Dykshoorn, one of the most consistent and principled conservatives I’ve ever known. During Jan’s one term in the State Senate, a bill similar to the one Governor Sinner vetoed came to the floor of the Senate. When the vote was taken, Senator Dykshoorn voted “No.” After the vote, feeling a bit surprised, I went over to congratulate him. I said “Senator, I am very proud of you today, and very proud you are my Senator.”

He replied “Jim, the government has no business telling a woman what she can or can’t do with her body.”

The Forum did another interesting thing this week. On Friday, it published an article entitled “Abortion in America and North Dakota since 1973.” It is a chronology of activities in North Dakota surrounding the abortion issue since January 22, 1973, the date of the Roe v. Wade decision. Here’s a link to the story, but because the Forum disappears their stories after just a few days unless you want to pay to read them, I’m just tacking the entire chronology onto the end of this article. It’s pretty interesting. You will read the next entry in their chronology sometime this week.

Abortion in America and North Dakota since 1973

By: Forum staff reports, INFORUM

            Jan. 22, 1973: U.S. Supreme Court rules on Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion.

            1975: Jane Bovard heads up North Dakota chapter of National Abortion & Reproductive Rights Action League.

            1976: National abortion rights group Women’s Health Organization formed.

            Oct. 1, 1981: With help from WHO, Bovard opens Fargo’s first abortion clinic. Anti-abortion protests and prayers begin a few days later.

            Oct. 1983: Fargo Women’s Health Organization hires private security to deal with picketers.

            April 1984: Fargo WHO asks city for picketing regulations in response to protesters blocking entrances.

            June 1984: Protesters begin picketing Jane Bovard’s north Fargo home.

            Nov. 1984: Fargo Mayor Jon Lindgren introduces city ordinance that would prohibit residential picketing.

            Dec. 1984: Anti-abortion activist Darold Larson arrested for criminal trespass after entering Fargo WHO dressed as Santa Claus.

            Sept. 1987: 5,000 people gather for peaceful abortion protest outside Fargo WHO.

            Nov. 1988: West Fargo man indicted by federal grand jury for August 1987 attempted firebombing of Fargo WHO clinic. Pleads guilty and sentenced to two months in prison.

            July 1989: U.S. Supreme Court gives states the potential authority to limit abortion.

            Dec. 1989: 12 people arrested outside Fargo WHO for criminal trespass after blocking entrance to clinic.

            Feb. 1991: North Dakota Legislature passes toughest anti-abortion legislation in nation, banning abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when mother’s life in danger.

            March 1991: Twenty-six abortion protesters arrested after entering Fargo WHO and chaining themselves together at the neck with Kryptonite bike locks.

            April 1991: Gov. George Sinner vetoes anti-abortion legislation but signs informed consent law mandating 24-hour waiting period and women seeking abortion to receive informational materials about the procedure and alternatives.

            May 31, 1991: Lambs of Christ make first appearance at Fargo WHO. Two dozen abortion protesters arrested after storming clinic and attaching themselves to steel pipes and metal boxes, requiring locksmiths to free them.

            June 1991: Fargo WHO files lawsuit against Gov. Sinner and Attorney General Nick Spaeth over abortion restriction law.

            Aug. 24, 1991: Federal Judge Rodney Webb grants preliminary injunction, delaying enforcement of informed consent law.

            Oct. 25, 1991: Fargo WHO wins restraining order and temporary injunction severely limiting picketing at clinic.

            Nov. 21, 1991: Forty-five protesters arrested outside Fargo WHO for disobeying judicial order.

            April 1992: Firebomb causes minor damage to Fargo WHO.

            Jan. 1993: President Bill Clinton signs executive orders loosening abortion restrictions on 20th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

            Aug. 1993: Abortion protester from Oregon, who spent time in Cass County Jail in 1991 for Fargo WHO protests, is charged with attempted murder in shooting of doctor outside Wichita, Kan., abortion clinic.

            Feb. 1994: Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds North Dakota informed consent law.

            May 1994: Congress approves legislation making it a federal crime to block access to an abortion clinic, or use force or threats against employees or patients. President Clinton signs Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances act.

            July 30, 1994: Doctor and security escort shot and killed outside Pensacola abortion clinic. Anti-abortion activist arrested. U.S. Marshals brought in to guard abortion clinics nationwide.

            March 1995: Federal Magistrate Karen Klein strikes down 16-year-old North Dakota law prohibiting state-funded abortions, except when necessary to save a woman’s life.

            1997: Jane Bovard parts ways with Fargo WHO.

            July 1998: Bovard opens Red River Women’s Clinic at 512 1st. Ave. N., Fargo, along with retired abortion doctor George Miks and a silent partner.

            Jan. 2001: Fargo WHO clinic closes, citing business and financial reasons, again leaving the city with one abortion facility.

            Feb. 2003: U.S. Supreme Court ruling lifts nationwide ban on protests that interfere with abortion clinic business.

            Jan. 2005: North Dakota lawmaker introduces bill calling for anyone who performs an abortion to be charged with murder.

            March 2006: Abortion protester Martin Wishnatsky posts pictures on the Internet of patients entering Red River Women’s Clinic.

            Sept. 2007: First annual 40 Days for Life vigil is held in Fargo, held in part by Catholic Diocese of Fargo.

            Sept. 2008: RRWC uses clinic escorts for the first time, during 40 Days for Life vigil.

            June 2011: Fargo Catholic Diocese opens chapel in building neighboring the RRWC. Offers Mass every Wednesday, the day abortions are performed.

            Aug. 2011: RRWC granted restraining order in its lawsuit against new state law limiting medication-induced abortions. Trial set for April 2013.

            Friday: The North Dakota Senate approved banning abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, sending what would be the most stringent abortion restrictions in the U.S. to Gov. Jack Dalrymple for his signature.

8 thoughts on ““Government . . . Must Not Play God”

  1. Thank you, Jim, for a powerful message and the historical background to Governor Sinner’s veto in 1991. I had forgotten about this, but once you reminded me, I remembered how VERY grateful and impressed I was that the governor was able and willing to separate his religious and personal beliefs to uphold the Constitution and do what was right for the women of North Dakota. We can only hope that Governor Dalrymple and Lt. Governor Wrigley will have the same courage.


  2. “The government has no business telling a woman what she can or can’t do with her body.” Say it over, and over, and over!!!


    1. Yes, the government does have a right to tell a woman she can’t murder another human being. Shame on you governor for not standing up for the whole sale slaughter of children. Our present day societal decay is a direct result of roe v wade. There are 2 bodies here to consider people. Can a mother kill her child after it’s born? So why can she kill it before? Makes no sense.


      1. If you believe that abortion is a mother killing her child, i.e. murder, do you ask your representatives/senators to introduce legislation that would penalize “mothers” for commiting murder by abortion? If you have asked, what is their response? If their response is no, why not? We know they always go after doctors, but if abortion is murder, then the “mother” is conspiring with the doctor to commit murder. You and legislators should see it the same as any murder for hire. In other words, if a woman were to hire someone to murder her husband, she could be charged with not only conspiracy to commit murder but murder if it were successful. So, if the same woman hires someone, a doctor, to murder her “child” via abortion, should’nt she also be charged with both conspiracy and murder?


      2. Mike, you’re the one who should be ashamed. Women have heartbeats, too, and people like you would let women die before you’d “permit” us to make decisions about our own bodies and lives. This is the 21st century and women are equals, not just your breeding stock. It’s time that you accepted that fact.


  3. Let’s say it again: The government does not have the right to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body. Now let’s add: Nor does any citizen have that right. Never. Ever. It’s my body, and I’ll make the decisions. Unless of course, you want me to start making decisions for your life and your body. No? Well then keep your self-righteous nose out of my business.


  4. Totally agree Paula!!! right on! These self-righteous people can’t keep their nose where it belongs!!! According to their thinking the if a Gun dealer sells a gun to someone that kills someone then the gun dealer should be charged with murder? Let the women make her choice and THAT is between her and the Lord not some self-righteous women!! Like to see whats in their closets hahaha


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