Bismark, North Dakota — An incumbent state Senator who single-handedly killed personhood legislation in both 2009 and 2011 became the first to be defeated in a national campaign to remove personhood obstructionists from office. Senator Curtis Olafson lost his bid for re-election in Tuesday’s Republican primary by 20 percentage points to Senator Joe Miller, the pro-life lawmaker who fought to revive the 2011 personhood bill.
The 2011 Defense of Human Life Act, HB 1450, passed the North Dakota House 68-25 and received a “do pass” recommendation from the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 5-1 margin. The bill defined the term “human being” as “an individual member of the species homo sapiens at every stage of development” and “person,” as used in state law, to “include all human beings.”
HB 1450 enjoyed the support of ND Right to Life, ND Life League, ND Family Alliance, ND Concerned Women for America, Personhood North Dakota, and the ND Catholic Conference.
Olafson positioned himself as the leading opponent to personhood, requesting time to work with the pro-life movement to add amendments in committee. When the bill was introduced on the floor, Olafson shocked onlookers by motioning to table his own amendment, thereby blocking the bill from receiving a vote.
ND CWFA called the move “stunningly deceptive” and a “cowardly action.”
“The tactics used on HB 1450 fly in the face of the spirit of this tradition and way we do things in North Dakota,” read a statement from the ND Catholic Diocese.
“After all of this, Olafson continued to describe himself as pro-life and claimed to support ‘reasonable’ pro-life legislation,” said Keith Mason, President of Personhood USA. “Apparently he considers the prospect of ending abortion in North Dakota too ‘unreasonable.’”
Senator Miller moved to bring HB 1450 to reconsideration on the final day of the 2011 session. The motion received majority support, but fell just five votes shy of the 2/3rds super-majority needed. Miller’s actions earned him pro-life endorsements and won him the Republican nomination at the party convention in February. Olafson was forced to petition for a spot on Tuesday’s primary ballot.
“North Dakota can serve as an example to politicians across America,” continued Mason. “No matter one’s party affiliation, the grassroots personhood movement has promised to expose any action that stands in the way of legal protections for all children. Personhood supporters have made good on that promise.”