Steve Daines is going to get an abortion provider killed. In an op-ed co-authored by failed candidate Al Olszewski and run by the Independent Record, the Senator doubled down today on the Republican claim that Democrats have defended the practice of infanticide, dangerously and dishonestly escalating the rhetoric over women’s reproductive rights.
The claim, of course, is a lie. Despite the Republicans, once again, demagoguing on the abortion issue by claiming that the law permits infanticide and that the practice is common in clinics that provide abortion services, it’s lie—and a cruel one, at that—to suggest that women forced with the decision to terminate pregnancies late in their term are murdering the children they so clearly hoped to carry to term. As Amanda Marcotte notes in Salon:
It’s a lie, of course. According to the Guttmacher Institute, four out of five abortions occur before 11 weeks of gestation, before the embryo has even officially developed into a fetus. Only 1.3 percent of abortions occur after the 20th week of gestation. The percentage of abortions that are performed post-viability is so small that it literally doesn’t register on surveys of abortion in the United States. This vanishingly small number of abortions are performed mostly, if not exclusively, out of medical necessity, and usually because the fetus has birth defects incompatible with life.
The only people this bill could affect are families with babies who are born alive but clearly dying. Its only possible result would be to deprive those babies and their families of comfort by forcing fruitless and painful medical interventions.
An actual OB-GYN, Dr. Kristyn Brandi, explains that the Republican claim of infanticide after what Daines calls a “botched abortion” just couldn’t happen under current medical practice or the law:
[In] typical abortion care, this is something that can never happen, and part of it is actually because of politics. There was this  partial-birth abortion ban, which restricted this from happening. If we did what these politicians are claiming we’re doing, we’re already breaking the law.
What the law Daines supports would do, though, is force women who are at the risk of dying deciding to both risk their own lives and cause incredible duress to an infant who will not survive:
Dr. Grossman said there were painful situations in which the fetus might be at the edge of viability and labor must be induced to save the mother’s life. For instance, a condition called pre-eclampsia, involving high blood pressure and other problems, can kill both mother and fetus, and in most cases the only treatment is to deliver the baby. If it seems unlikely that the baby will survive, the family may choose to provide just comfort care — wrapping and cuddling the baby — and allow the child to die naturally without extreme attempts at resuscitation.
The bill would force doctors to resuscitate such an infant, even if the parents did not want those measures, said Dr. Jennifer Conti, an obstetrician gynecologist who is a fellow of Physicians for Reproductive Health, an advocacy group. Doctors who violated the law would be subject to criminal penalties, as would anyone who saw the violation and failed to report it, she said.
That’s what the scientists say: that abortions this late in pregnancy almost never happen, that when they do, it’s because of late health complications, and that the law already prohibits the kinds of procedures Daines claims Democrats support.
That doesn’t matter to the extremists in the Republican Party, who not only want to impose their “from conception to natural death” restrictions on reproductive health care and birth control, but who want to further inflame an irrational base who have demonstrated that they will use violence, even murder, to “protect life.” As New York Magazine notes, the extremist rhetoric used by anti-choice zealots like Steve Daines could ramp up violence against abortion providers:
And that language has consequences. Abortion providers are frequently targeted by domestic terrorists who have become convinced that America has an infant murder problem. Robert Dear, who murdered three people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood in 2016, directly cited right-wing, anti-abortion material online and on radio shows as an influence. By the time Kansas abortion provider George Tiller was murdered in 2010, anti-abortion extremists had already bombed his clinic and shot him in both arms….
But there are recent examples of threats or actual attempts of violence directed at abortion providers. In 2018, a West Virginia man was arrested for threatening to kill Planned Parenthood employees in Pittsburgh, whom he blamed for “murdering” his child. The same year, an Indiana man pleaded guilty to emailing threats to local abortion clinics. “I will do what I feel is necessary to protect the innocent and stop these atrocities you commit,” he wrote, according to the Riverfront Times. In February of this year, CNN reported that the FBI had begun investigating a fire set at a Missouri Planned Parenthood as a potential hate crime. And on Wednesday, Texas police arrested a 17-year-old for threatening “jihad” on abortion clinics.
The Republican Party may well energize its base with its false infanticide claims. They may also put abortion providers in real danger.
And that’s what makes the Independent Record’s decision to publish the Daines op-ed so irresponsible. Despite its demonstrably false claims, despite the way it dangerously fuels the already contentious and even violent debate over reproductive rights, and despite its transparently cynical and repulsive effort to politicize incredibly difficult health care decisions, the Independent Record ran the piece, because, apparently, clicks are more important than demanding a standard of veracity and decency in editorial pieces.
At some point, the Montana media is going to realize just how dangerous not only giving a platform to but normalizing the rhetoric of the Republican Party is for our state and nation.
Let’s hope that someone doesn’t have to lose their life first.