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Abortion debate

The “Born Alive” anti-abortion bill and proposed legislation to put a “personhood” constitutional amendment on the ballot next year is all about power and control over women — not health. These dangerous legislative initiatives threaten Montana women’s right to control their own bodies and destiny by putting their autonomy in the hands of lawmakers. We urge Gov. Steve Bullock to block these bills as soon as they cross his desk.

These measures are being pushed forward in Montana and nationally by extremist groups and politicians who have made no secret of the fact that their core objective is to ban all abortion. The bills offer no exceptions, even for survivors of rape or incest, and are simply a power play to prop up support for an unpopular agenda that seeks to control women’s bodies.

In addition to the current measures, other harmful, deceptive legislation has been introduced in Montana and other states under the guise of “protecting women.” The bills, which include forced transvaginal ultrasounds, waiting periods and unnecessary clinic regulations, are designed to override a women’s constitutional right to safe and legal abortion.

Montana does not now have any of these restrictions on the books, but the movement to bring them here is gathering strength as the national debate over abortion grows even more heated. In fact, anti-abortion activists are positioning Montana to take center stage in the increasingly divisive debate over abortion.

The so-called Montana Born Alive Infant Protection Act is nothing more than a political gimmick designed to elevate a nonexistent problem into a wedge to use against supporters of abortion rights.

There is no such thing as legislatively protected infanticide in Montana — or anywhere else in the United States. The myth that doctors are murdering newborns following a failed abortion is a cynical, dishonest and fear-mongering tactic designed to get headlines. This is a junk science bill that won’t protect any mother’s health or save any infant’s life.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Al Olszewski, R-Kalispell, knows this, but he and his colleagues are rushing to make Montana central to the campaign to pass harsh and unconstitutional legislation that would join the numerous legal cases seeking to weaken or overturn Roe v. Wade via a Supreme Court ruling.

We don’t need this kind of spotlight. Women in Montana have other, more pressing needs. Despite ranking fourth in the nation in publicly funded women’s health services needs met, Montana, ranks 41st in uninsured women.

Bullock has vetoed similar legislation in the past and we hope that he will again stand up for all women’s constitutional right to control their own bodies and veto SB100 and SB354 as well as HB500. Montana is fortunate to have a gwho takes the law seriously and is committed to protecting women’s health. But the state would be better off if the Legislature would stop putting on circus sideshows designed to make noise on cable TV, and spend more time passing laws such as Medicaid expansion HB658 that strengthen health care access and coverage to benefit women and men alike.

Our leaders should be working to protect access for all to health care, not demonizing women – especially those with low incomes, with limited rural access, are indigenous and/or women of color - for exercising their constitutional right to abortion.

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Jan Strout, of Bozeman, is president of the Montana chapter of the National Organization for Women. Toni Van Pelt is president of the National Organization for Women. House Bill 302, which called for a "personhood" referendum didn't pass the 2019 Legislature.

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