Montana legislature sends law to require medical care for infants born alive after an attempted abortion to 2022 ballot

The Montana State Legislature put a measure on the November 2022 ballot that would require medical care to be provided to infants born alive after an attempted abortion by classifying them as a “legal person” with “the right to appropriate and reasonable medical care and treatment.” The healthcare provider that violates this requirement by not providing care could be convicted of a felony with a maximum sentence of a $50,000 fine and/or 20 years in prison under the measure. The law would take effect on January 1, 2023.

In Montana, a simple majority is required in both chambers of the state legislature to place a proposed change to statute on the ballot. The governor’s signature is not required for legislatively referred state statutes.

The measure was introduced as House Bill 167 (HB 167) on January 14, 2021, in the Montana House of Representatives. On January 26, 2021, the state House passed the measure in a vote of 68-32. All 67 Republicans voted in favor of it, and all but one Democrat, Rep. Dave Fern, voted against it. It was sent to the Montana State Senate on January 26. On February 26, the state Senate passed an amended version in a vote of 30-20. The vote was largely along party lines, except for Senator Jeffrey Welborn, who was the sole Republican to vote against the measure. On April 22, the state House concurred with the amended version in a vote of 66-34. The vote was also along party lines, except for Rep. Edward Buttrey, who was the sole Republican to vote against the measure.

Representative Lola Sheldon-Galloway, the sponsor of the bill, said, “I stand today as a witness that this practice of infants dying because they are not wanted or not planned is an abomination in God’s eyes, and I will continue to fight for the most invulnerable.”

Representative Kathy Kelker (D), who voted against the bill, said, “This one size fits all legislated standard of care not only interferes with medical practice, but denies physicians the ability to provide care that is necessary, compassionate, and appropriate to an individual woman’s circumstances.”

The measure is the third ballot measure related to abortion sent to 2022 ballots. Voters in Kentucky and Kansas will be deciding on constitutional amendments to add language to their respective state constitutions to state that nothing in the constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding for abortion.

In 2022, Montana voters will also be voting on a constitutional amendment to require a search warrant to access electronic data or electronic communications.

Between 1996 and 2020, about 64.6% (42 of 65) of the total number of measures that appeared on Montana ballots were approved, and about 35.4% (23 of 65) were defeated.

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