Montana Politics

Because Montanans Really Needed Another Attack on Reproductive Freedom

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In the wake of LR-120‘s overwhelming voter approval, Representative Keith Regier (R-HD5) is attempting to further limit Montanans’ access to health care with the introduction of House Bill 104 which would expand the legal definition of homicide to include crimes that result in the death of an “unborn child.”

Although the bill does include rather vague provisions to exclude emergency medical care and lawful medical procedures from the homicide label, it defines an unborn child as “a human who is conceived but is not yet born.” That’s right Montana, it’s another Life From Conception Law!

Aside from the usual problems associated with a man telling people with uteruses what they can and cannot do with them, this bill demonizes both the person seeking an abortion and the health care provider who terminates the pregnancy. Regier’s bill becomes part of the growing body of institutional blacklisting of abortion providers. If our lawmakers see fit to label abortion providers murderers, it’s not a far step to imagine that it’s acceptable for civilians to appoint themselves vigilantes and murder the “murderers.” Dr. George Tiller’s 2009 murder should still be fresh in our minds when we think about not only denying women access to health care, but also endangering the lives of the medical professionals who provide it.

HB 104, as with all attempts to get around Roe v. Wade, boils down to people with privilege (primarily men) simply refusing to acknowledge that people have a universal right to control their reproduction. Limiting people’s access to medical care will result in limited access to economic, social, and political power for women and cost the state an untold amount of money in increased social services. I wonder how Republican Keith Regier can justify increasing our government’s scope by criminalizing a set of medical interventions in a move that will ultimately harm Montana’s economy.

The Guttmacher Institute reports that 1 in 3 women in the United States has had or will have an abortion, which means that HB 104 essentially criminalizes 1 in 6 Montanans. Of the thousands of issues facing Montana today, I am disappointed that one of our lawmakers would choose to spend precious legislative time and resources on something so harmful to both the people and economy of our state.

About the author

Ellie Newell

Born and raised in Helena, Ellie recently completed her bachelors degree in English Literature at Whitman College where she was co-president of Feminists Advocating Change & Empowerment. She lives in Bozeman.

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  • On Friday, I imported the list of bill into Filemaker and searched for “referendum.” Seventeen hits. Adding “constitution” and “amendment” generated 37 hits. Regier’s ugly bill is just one of many that the GOP hopes to avoid the governor’s veto pen by putting the matter directly to the voters. It’s a dangerous trend.

    • I think the difference lies in the intentions behind these two legal definitions.

      The Unborn Victims of Violence Act (2004) is an attempt to address the fact that pregnant women are more likely than their non-pregnant counterparts to be the victims of sexual and domestic violence. The act specifically includes an exception for aborted fetuses and embryos, given that the woman has consented to the abortion or it is an emergency medical procedure. This federal law was designed to essentially give more charges to throw at the murderers of pregnant women, or at people who seriously injure pregnant women in a way that leads to a miscarriage or stillbirth.

      HB 104 is not designed with women’s well-being in mind. It does not further the protections of the federal act discussed above, but rather would make it impossible or very difficult for Montanans to have access to safe, legal abortions. Experiencing a pregnancy within an abusive relationship is a strong motivator for many women to seek abortions, and HB 104’s criminalization of abortions would endanger these women by either pushing them towards “back alley” abortions or forcing them to carry the pregnancy to term and face the very real possibility that they will experience increased abuse and violence.

      • (Note: I don’t see the Unborn Victims of Violence Act as a perfect piece of legislation. There are many very valid pro-choice arguments against it, but I think my point about it specifically excluding abortions v. HB 104’s specific targeting of abortions still stands.)

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