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Ronald Fischer: Measure 1 reaffirms your right to guide your own care

Ronald Fischer

GRAND FORKS — Measure 1 on the November ballot, passed with overwhelming and bipartisan support by the North Dakota Legislature, will amend the North Dakota Constitution to state in clear and understandable language that “The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”

Those who oppose Measure 1 — including Steven Morrison, who is currently teaching law at UND — are using scare tactics, claiming it will restrict our ability to make end-of-life decisions such as the right to refuse extraordinary measures to keep us alive if we have a terminal illness. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Rather than prevent us from making our own end-of-life decisions, Measure 1 makes sure that right stays with us rather than some third party who may think we have no more value to society.

Other countries are moving toward state-sponsored euthanasia of the elderly or infirm. Passing Measure 1 will make sure that doesn’t happen in North Dakota.

I know a thing or two about end-of-life issues. First, I am a constitutional lawyer, born, raised, educated and living right here in North Dakota. Second, I am battling cancer, so end-of-life issues are more than a theoretical concern to me.

Professionally, I have been dealing with issues of constitutional law for the past 34 years. I’ve litigated countless cases concerning constitutional issues, including five years as an attorney in the U.S. Justice Department under President Reagan, where I received multiple awards for outstanding service.

In 2004 I was honored with a fellowship in The American College of Trial Lawyers, widely considered to be the premier professional legal organization in America, whose membership is limited to no more than 1 percent of the lawyers in any state.

In addition to my professional qualifications to speak about Measure 1, I have a keen personal interest in making sure North Dakotans retain control over our own end-of-life decisions. I have stage IV chronic lymphocytic leukemia, also known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I currently am being successfully treated for that cancer by the Mayo Clinic.

I would not support Measure 1 if I had any doubt that it would affect in any way my right to control decisions affecting my health care treatment.

The fact is that Measure 1 will have no impact on end-of-life care issues. The right to control care at the end of life, including invoking the use of “Do Not Resuscitate” directives, is guaranteed by state and federal laws and is not changed in any way by Measure 1.

My opinion is backed by a prestigious group of 16 legal, medical and senior-care experts who recently published a paper documenting this fact. Their findings are available online at

Why would those who oppose Measure 1 misrepresent what it does? The answer is simple: They don’t want to talk about their attempts to get state judges to impose an unlimited right to abortion in North Dakota, as occurred last year in Fargo.

This issue is currently before the North Dakota Supreme Court, where out-of-state abortion groups, supported by Morrison — the same folks who are leading the opposition to Measure 1 — are arguing that the “right” to an abortion in North Dakota is largely without limit.

Such an unfettered right would invalidate many, if not all, of the common-sense anti-abortion laws on the books in North Dakota, such as requiring that abortions can be performed by only licensed physicians with hospital admitting privileges so they can treat women suffering an emergency complication, laws that prevent partial birth abortion and our law requiring that parents be notified before a minor daughter can have an abortion.

The truth is, opponents of Measure 1 are manufacturing a campaign based upon groundless fear. As President Franklin Roosevelt famously said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

A “yes” vote on Measure 1 means North Dakotans respect and protect life at all stages. A “no” vote means we don’t respect and protect life at all stages. It is that simple, and you don’t need to be a constitutional law scholar to figure that out.

Don’t let the fear campaign fool you. Vote yes on Measure 1.

Ronald Fischer is an attorney in private practice in Grand Forks.