Montana Attorney General and candidate for governor Tim Fox announced Wednesday that his office is signing on to a brief submitted to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in support of North Carolina’s unconstitutional ban on abortions later than 20 weeks after conception.
Fox’s decision to side against Montana’s constitution and with extremists bent on ending reproductive rights might be good politics in a Republican primary, but it’s terrible policy and an abrogation of his responsibilities as Montana’s Attorney General.
Rewire News notes that abortions after the twentieth week of pregnancy occur quite infrequently, but must be protected:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2009 roughly 1.3 percent of all abortions performed in the United States were after 20 weeks’ gestation. There are many reasons women need abortions at this stage. A number of fetal and genetic anomalies cannot be identified until later in pregnancy, and some women find themselves facing pregnancies gone terribly wrong. Health conditions that threaten the woman’s life or health can develop at any point during a pregnancy. And a large share of women seeking abortions late in the second trimester do so because they face dramatically changed life circumstances or were unable to obtain an earlier abortion—a situation that’s increasingly common in states where laws are making abortion more expensive, more time-consuming, and more geographically inaccessible.
The North Carolina law is part of the conservative gameplan to undermine reproductive rights by creating a patchwork of laws and access restrictions undermining the autonomy of patients.
In submitting this brief, Fox is not working to defend the people of Montana. Instead, the Attorney General is aligning with those who would strip reproductive rights from the people of their states, even though Montana law and the Montana constitution explicitly and unambiguously protect the right to choose.
As Democratic Attorney General candidate Raph Graybill noted yesterday, Fox should consult existing Montana jurisprudence. In the 1999 Armstrong v. State of Montana decision, our Supreme Court unanimously affirmed that Montana’s constitution protects the rights to privacy and personal autonomy in reproductive rights:
Respect for the dignity of each individual-a fundamental right, protected by Article II, Section 4 of the Montana Constitution-demands that people have for themselves the moral right and moral responsibility to confront the most fundamental questions about the meaning and value of their own lives and the intrinsic value of life in general, answering to their own consciences and convictions. ? Equal protection, also protected by Article II, Section 4, requires that people have an equal right to form and to follow their own values in profoundly spiritual matters.
As Democratic Attorney General candidate Kim Dudik noted yesterday, “women and families do not need politicians or government dictating their medical care,” and it’s especially troubling that the Attorney General would act to interfere with these deeply personal medical decisions.
Even more troubling is the fact that the suit, as Fox notes in his reasoning for filing a brief, is not really about restricting abortion to the first twenty weeks of pregnancy. The ultimate aim, as Fox’s press release notes, is to establish the right of states to prohibit abortion entirely. While the North Carolina law puts the cutoff at twenty weeks, it and other laws across the country are designed to slowly erode reproductive rights under the new illegitimate Trump Supreme Court.
If Fox and North Carolina succeed in the twenty-week ban, the next step will be an even shorter timeframe, with the ultimate goal being to end the protections enshrined in Roe v. Wade in 1973 entirely.
The Attorney General’s job is to defend Montana state law, not to use his office to burnish his conservative credentials to win a primary that he seems less and less likely to win every day. As we have reported over the years, Fox has transformed his office from one serving the interests of the people of our state to one that routinely argues against their constitutional rights to exercise control of their bodies and marry the people they love. He’s defended a County Attorney who let rapists run wild in Missoula in the name of local sovereignty and permitted pervasive discrimination against LGBTQ staff in his office.
All of those will probably help Fox in a Republican primary for governor, but none of them are appropriate for an Attorney General sworn to protect the legal rights of Montanans.
It’s unconscionable that Fox is using his current office to score political points to win an election, and it’s unimaginable that Montanans would let someone willing to strip our constitutional rights serve as our next governor. Instead of worrying about the job he so desperately wants next, perhaps Attorney General Fox should go back to doing what he’s legally and ethically bound to do now: protect the rights of all Montanans.