A Wisconsin-based anti-abortion group with a graphically decorated van and a stack of literature is making the rounds in North Dakota to urge a "yes" vote on the state's Measure 1.
The 38-member group called Missionaries to the Preborn was in Minot Monday. They distributed literature door to door and held signs at heavily trafficked intersections.
Measure 1, placed on the ballot by the state Legislature, would change the constitution to state, "The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected."
Photo by Tim Chapman, Pierce County Tribune
A truck belonging to Missionaries for the Preborn and bearing graphic images slips into a car wash in Rugby.
Jim Soderna with Missionaries to the Preborn said Tuesday that the group arrived in Fargo Aug. 5 and is making a swing around the state that will end in Fargo on Friday. They decided to come after learning that Measure 1 would be on the ballot. They previously had traveled to Colorado and Florida to support ballot measures there. A measure in Florida failed to get enough signatures to get on the ballot and anti-abortion measures in Colorado and Mississippi failed, Soderna said.
For a challenge to be made to the U.S. Supreme Court's abortion rights ruling, a state needs to stand up and say they won't tolerate abortion within their borders, he said.
"That's why we are so encouraged that North Dakota is doing it," he said.
The group's literature states that "North Dakota has the honor of being the first state in the nation to stand in interposition on behalf of the preborn. Other states will rally to your example!" It also encourages people to pull out a medical textbook on fetal development at the public library to see for themselves what a preborn child looks like.
The group is based in Milwaukee, although members traveling with Missionaries to the Preborn in North Dakota include people from Iowa, Pennsylvania, Florida and Washington. Soderna said they picked up a couple of local people in Williston.
Also in Williston, police arrested the group's founder, Matthew Trewhella, for disorderly conduct. Trewhella is the pastor of Mercy Seat Christian Church. He was held in jail but released the same day.
Soderna said the charge was based on the graphic images on the group's truck. It was the first time in their multi-state travels that they have encountered any legal issues with the truck, he said.
"If something is offensive, it doesn't mean you are allowed to arrest that person," Soderna said. "You still have free speech rights."
Trewhella was assessed $150 in court costs and the towing charge on the truck was another $150. Soderna said the case would be dismissed if Trewhella stays away from Williston for the next three months.
Dina Butcher, Bismarck, chairwoman for North Dakotans Against Measure 1, said she isn't familiar with Missionaries to the Preborn or whether they have an affiliation in the state. Her group has not had any contact with the Wisconsin group during its time in the state, she said.
The director for North Dakota Right to Life couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday, but Tim Knutson of Minot, local coordinator for the statewide effort on behalf of Measure 1, said he was unaware of the group beyond having seen their members on a street corner. He said Measure 1 is not just about abortion but about euthanasia and the right to life at any age.