BISMARCK, April 12, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Pro-life advocates and sponsors of a North Dakota bill that would make it illegal to kill any unborn child are fuming after the measure was unexpectedly tabled Monday by a Republican senator.
Daniel Woodard, a legislative consultant for North Dakota Life League, told LifeSiteNews.com this week that backers had negotiated for weeks to clear the way for a vote after the bill passed the House in February with a strong majority.
Sen. Curtis Olafson, who headed the Senate Judiciary subcommittee handling the Defense of Human Life Act (HB 1450), was uncomfortable with the bill’s broad language, but according to Woodard expressed willingness to seek a compromise.
To ease Olafson’s two concerns over the bill, a lack of exceptions for cases of rape and incest and more specific guidelines related to embryo protection, supporters divided the vote on the Senate floor, one vote for each of the two possible amendments.
But just before the vote on rape/incest exceptions, Sen. Olafson motioned to table the amendment. Many pro-life senators backed the motion; however, the maneuver effectively blocked not only the rape/incest exception, but the entire bill. Two senators with 20 years’ experience said they had never seen such a motion and were not aware that the motion would table the entire bill.
HB 1450 supporter Sen. Margaret Sitte quickly asked the President of the Senate, Lieutenant Governor Drew Wrigley, to be recognized, but was ignored, said Woodard. Sitte then stood and requested a recorded roll call vote, but this too went unheeded.
“Everybody was stunned. The pro-life senators were furious,” said Woodard. He also said Wrigley violated Senate rules requiring that every request for a recorded vote be granted.
Later in the day, Sen. Joe Miller attempted to bring the bill back into consideration, but the motion fell five votes shy of the required two-thirds majority. The vote was 26-21 in favor, with Sen. Robinson indicating he had intended to vote the other way - meaning that the bill likely had plenty of support to pass the Senate.
Rep. Dan Ruby, the bill’s sponsor in the House, confirmed to LSN on Tuesday that HB 1450 “was not really given its fair opportunity” and that Olafson’s motion likely confused some senators.
“A lot of people were sitting back saying that [Olafson] tabled the amendment so we still have the bill. Well, no,” he said. “There may have been some confusion among some of the members.” Ruby said that he believes there are enough votes to pass the measure in the Senate and even to remove the damaging rape/incest amendment.
The lawmaker also said that many local pro-lifers were already expressing their outrage to GOP senators that had contributed to the maneuver.
Woodard said the turn of events amounted to a shocking betrayal of pro-lifers’ good faith seeking an agreement with Sen. Olafson.
“He led the opposition in 2009 and then he falsely led us on in 2011. We thought we finally had the support of Sen. Olafson - so when he betrayed us on the floor it was like a punch in the gut,” said Woodard.
HB 1450 could still be brought back for consideration by the Senate if it is able to clear a two-thirds majority vote before the session ends, which may happen as early as April 22.
North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple has not stated whether or not he plans to sign the bill.