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Steve Morrison: Column mischaracterized my views

Steve Morrison

GRAND FORKS — Ronald Fischer’s column in yesterday’s Herald smacked of a desperate ad hominem attack against me (“Measure 1 reaffirms your right to guide your own end-of-life care,” Page F1).

In my view it was also potentially libelous, so the editors of the Herald have graciously given me this space to correct some of Fischer’s most egregious falsehoods.

Fischer argues that I claim Measure 1 “will restrict our ability to make end-of-life decisions.” As a law professor, my career success depends upon my ability to make nuanced, accurate statements of the law. I have never, and will never, claim that Measure 1 doubtlessly will or will not have certain consequences. Indeed, I oppose Measure 1 because it is vague, overbroad and is likely to have many unintended consequences.

No one — not I, nor Fischer — can predict a certain future.

I do, however, oppose Measure 1 because my understanding of the law tells me that it could infringe upon our ability to have living wills and do-not-resuscitate orders and to make decisions regarding life-sustaining care. One can disagree with my interpretation of the law, but my interpretation is far from “groundless,” as Fischer claims. Again, as a law professor, I am not in the habit of making groundless legal arguments.

Most concerning, Fischer claims that I’m part of a group that wants “state judges to impose an unlimited right to abortion in North Dakota.” I have never said, in any forum, that I support such an unlimited right either as a matter of law or policy. And, in fact, I do not support such a right. Abortion is a highly contentious issue that should not be reduced to easy yes-or-no opinions. Such an easy opinion entails a lack of nuance and attention to wise law and policy that I, as a law professor, strive to engage.

Even more pointedly, abortion providers have been targets of violence, as have their supporters. If Fischer’s false statements about my views on abortion were believed, I don’t think I would be unreasonable in fearing for my physical safety.

Free speech drives our democracy, and I love North Dakota because its small population means that individuals truly can make a difference. But in debating Measure 1 and other issues, ad hominem and false accusations help no one.

Morrison is an assistant professor at the UND School of Law, where he teaches constitutional law. The views expressed herein are his alone and are not necessarily those of UND or its School of Law.