Montana Public Radio

Bills Restricting Abortion, Transgender Athletes Advance At Montana Legislature

Jan 21, 2021

Republican lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee have advanced a slew of bills that aim to restrict or modify abortion access, and to ban transgender athletes from participating in sports consistent with their identity.

The bills passed out of committee on party line votes, except for House Bill 112, which would ban transgender women from competing in women’s interscholastic sports.

Republican Rep. Mallerie Strumswold of Billings was the lone conservative to oppose it. Democrats pushed back against the proposal.

“Banning trans youth from participating in sports jeopardizes their short- and long-term physical and mental health," said Bozeman's Rep. Ed Staffman.

A second bill targeted at trans youth that would regulate the kind of health care they can receive will see executive action Friday.

The Committee also advanced four bills that aim to restrict or modify abortion access in Montana, including House Bill 167. The bill would require doctors to care for infants born after an attempted abortion, and is described by anti-abortion advocates as a “born-alive bill.” It would appear on the next statewide ballot for voters to consider if passed by the Legislature.

“The circumstances of your birth do not determine the value of your life," said Kalispell's Republican Rep. Derek Skees. "A person is a person, no matter how small."

Former Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed a similar bill during the 2019 session, writing that federal law already provides protections for infants. Medical experts say surviving an abortion is exceedingly rare. 

The other bills that will now move onto the House floor for debate include: 

House Bill 140, which would require health care providers to offer pregnant women an ultrasound before an abortion, except in emergency situations.

House Bill 171, a proposal to restrict access to medication abortions.

House Bill 136, which would ban abortion at 20 weeks gestation.

Under the Bullock Administration, bills proposing to restrict abortion access were vetoed, but that could change under Gov. Greg Gianforte, who has said he supports restricting access to abortion.