Montana campaign submits signatures for initiative to provide a constitutional right to abortion

In Montana, a campaign filed around 117,000 signatures on June 21, 2024, for a ballot initiative to provide for a state constitutional right to abortion. To qualify for the ballot, 60,359 valid signatures are required. County clerks have until July 19 to verify the signatures and submit them to the secretary of state’s office.

The ballot initiative would state that “there is a right to make and carry out decisions about one’s own pregnancy, including the right to abortion.” The government would be permitted to regulate abortion after fetal viability, except “to protect the life or health of the pregnant patient.”

Currently, abortion is legal in Montana until fetal viability. In Armstrong v. State (1999), the Montana Supreme Court held that Section 10 of Article II of the Montana Constitution provided women with a right to procreative autonomy, including an abortion before fetal viability. Section 10 read, “The right of individual privacy is essential to the well-being of a free society and shall not be infringed without the showing of a compelling state interest.” The provision was included as part of the 1972 Montana Constitution.

Montanans for Securing Reproductive Rights is leading the campaign in support of the initiative. The campaign has the support of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana, the ACLU of Montana, Forward Montana, and The Fairness Project. The campaign stated, “Now is the time to ensure power remains in the hands of the people of Montana, so everyone has the freedom to prevent, continue, or end a pregnancy should they choose. Politicians have no business controlling our bodies and our futures. We know that Montanans will show up for their right to control their own bodies, access the health care they need, and secure their right to abortion.”

Opponents of the initiative include the Republican six-member Law and Justice Interim Committee, which stated that the initiative was too broad and would limit the state from regulating abortion to protect patients. State Sen. Keith Regier (R-3) said the initiative is “vague and takes away legal protection from women.”

In 2022, Montana voters rejected LR-131 with 52.55% of voters opposed and 47.45% in favor. The measure, which was referred to the ballot by the state legislature, would have defined infants born alive at any stage of development as legal persons and required medical care to be provided to them if they were born alive after an induced labor, a cesarean section, an attempted abortion, or another method. In 2023, the state legislature passed a similar law, along mostly partisan lines with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. The bill differed from the ballot measure by having lesser penalties and not requiring medical care if death was imminent.

In 2012, voters approved LR-120 with 70.55% of voters in favor and 29.45% opposed. The measure, referred to the ballot by the state legislature, required notification of a parent or legal guardian of a pregnant woman under 16 years old at least 48 hours before performing an abortion.

Voters in 11 states could vote on abortion-related measures in Nov. 2024. Ballot measures are certified in five states—Colorado, Florida, Maryland, New York, and South Dakota.

Following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, seven abortion-related measures appeared on the ballot. 

In 2022, there were six ballot measures addressing abortion— the most on record for a single year. Measures were approved in California, Michigan, and Vermont. Measures were defeated in Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana. The most recent abortion-related ballot measure to be passed by voters was Ohio Issue 1, which voters approved in Nov. 2023.

Additional reading:

2023 and 2024 abortion-related ballot measures

History of abortion ballot measures

Abortion regulations by state