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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Anti-Abortion Bill Advances At Montana Legislature

Proposed Bill Would Ban Late-term Abortions In Montana.

An anti-abortion bill that would force doctors to save a potentially viable fetus is a step closer to the governor's desk.

It passed the Montana House on a near party line vote Wednesday, and would ban abortions if there is a better-than-half probability that a fetus can survive outside a mother's womb.

The story of a graveyard visit to stand near buried twins that died in the minutes after their birth, and other stories of faith, personal choice, and responsible medicine prefaced the vote by Montana lawmakers to place limitations on ending a pregnancy when a fetus is considered, "viable."

Representative Theresa Manzella, a Great Falls Republican, carried the bill on the House floor.

"It is the policy of the state to preserve and protect the lives all human beings and to provide protection for the viable human life."

Rep. Theresa Manzella (R) HD85.
Credit Montana Legislature
Rep. Theresa Manzella (R) HD85.

Manzella says the state has an interest to protect life that is above the individual's interest of privacy with their pregnancy choices. 

"The protection afforded to a person by Montana constitutional rights of privacy is not absolute, but may be infringed upon by a compelling state interest."

Senate Bill 282, introduced by Kalispell Republican Albert Olszewski, says if a woman decides to end a pregnancy, doctors must provide life-sustaining support to a fetus that has a greater than 50-percent chance of living outside the womb.

The bill originally defined a viable fetus as a fetus with a 24 week gestational age.

The "greater than 50-percent" chance of surviving, including with support of artificial aid, was language added to the bill in an amendment.

If a fetus is considered viable under that definition, Senate Bill 282 would require any termination of pregnancy to be by inducing labor or delivering the fetus by cesarean section, ruling out previous methods.

Representative Virginia Court, a Billings Democrat, says woman should not be made victims by removing choice from their lives. 

"I don’t think the legislature should stand in the way of a doctor's ability to decide what is best for his patient. This is the right of a woman and her doctor, in the privacy of the doctor's office. These decisions should be made between the two of them with open, careful, honest, truthful, consults. Not by the body of the Legislature."

Senate Bill 282 passed the Senate in February on party line vote. On Wednesday one Democrat joined Republicans in support of the bill. It faces a final vote to pass out of the House.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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