Two Abortion Bills Remain In Montana Legislature

Apr 18, 2017

HELENA — There are two abortion bills still in play in the 2017 Montana Legislature.

Senate Bill 329, or the Montana Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act, would make it a felony for providers to perform abortions after about five months of pregnancy unless there’s a medical emergency. The bill needs one more vote to get to the governor’s desk.

It returned to the Senate Tuesday so senators could review an amendment from the House, which would get rid of the measure if another bill — Senate Bill 282 — becomes law.

Montana Capitol.
Credit Eric Whitney

That bill would, among other things, force doctors to try to save a viable fetus. The bill defines viability as having a more than 50 percent chance of living outside the womb. It’s passed through both houses.

Sen. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, said she’d vote for the amendment to Senate Bill 329, but against the bill.

“It’s still an unconstitutional invasion into the rights of privacy, and intrusion into the ethical responsibility of a physician to care for their patients,” she said.

In the House debate last week, Rep. Barry Usher, R-Billings, says since babies at this stage can feel, they probably have emotions too.

“Putting somebody through pain, that’s kind of like torture,” he said. “This is torture to the baby, and we need to stand up for the baby; somebody needs to stand up for the baby’s rights.”

The amendment needs one more vote for the entire bill to pass through the Legislature. It passed the Senate’s second reading 43-6. Republican Representative Keith Regier of Kalispell is carrying the bill.

A spokesperson for Democratic Governor Steve Bullock says the governor will take a close look at the legislation if it reaches his desk, but strongly believes a woman’s medical decisions should stay between herself, her family, and her faith.

An abortion bill that failed was one that would have changed the constitutional definition of what a person is to include any homo sapiens at any stage of development, including at fertilization.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.