"The concern is that this is criminal negligence if anything should happen to an embryo," he said.
Gualberto Garcia Jones, an attorney for Personhood USA, noted that two doctors in the Senate — Fargo Republican Spencer Berry and Bismarck Republican Ralph Kilzer — voted for the proposals. "Clearly they would not vote to criminalize themselves," Jones said in a phone interview.
Opponents also noted that the North Dakota Medical Association is against the bill and a group of 26 students from the University of North Dakota medical school signed a letter to the state Senate against it.
Dr. Ted Kleiman, a Fargo pediatrician, said the law would set North Dakota back to "the stone age" of medicine.
"This is abhorrent in the highest degree," he said.
Efforts to pass personhood legislation in other states have failed. In Oklahoma, a measure this year that would have granted human embryos "all the rights, privileges and immunities available to other persons," was not given a hearing in a House committee and appears to be shelved for the legislative session.
North Dakota lawmakers are considering several bills this session that would restrict abortion. Dahl said that the legislation would ultimately impact medical care to women and families and allow no exceptions for rape or incest.
"A woman who has been sexually assaulted will be forced to carry a pregnancy to term, regardless of the nature of her assault," she said.
Sitte said she doesn't think women should abort pregnancies resulting from rape.
"Rape is a horrible crime. It is absolutely devastating," Sitte said. "But do we believe in capital punishment for those children?"