MHRN Statement on “Born Alive” Ballot Issue
The news that the U.S. Supreme Court is positioned to overturn Roe v. Wade has left people across the country riddled with fear that their access to safe, effective reproductive care will end. The Montana Human Rights Network believes strongly in an individual’s right to the medical care they need and privacy during that process. All people deserve to be able to consult medical professionals, not partisan politicians, to make the best healthcare choices for themselves and their families. Whether that is the need to terminate a pregnancy or receive gender-affirming care, everyone deserves to make the decision about what is right for themselves.
The decision of when and if to become a parent is one of the most important many of us will make in our lives. For decades, far-right groups and politicians have tried to demonize people who seek abortion care, eliminate access to healthcare providers, and restrict and outright ban reproductive care. Make no mistake, this is a well-coordinated, well-financed radical takeover of the country by a fringe minority. However, the court of public opinion is firmly in favor of freedom of choice for pregnant people. More than 70% of Americans are in favor of protecting an individual’s right to make their own healthcare decisions.
Montana is no exception. In the most recent legislative session, MHRN and other allied organizations fought against a tidal wave of anti-choice bills, three of which were passed but are currently being challenged in court. Another bill, which prohibits abortion coverage in health insurance plans offered through the Montana Exchange, has already gone into effect. These policies are the newest efforts to roll back established precedent and enact government-mandated pregnancy. Montana has a longstanding tradition in protecting an individual’s right to privacy. For over two decades, Montana’s courts have upheld that the right to abortion access is protected under the state constitution’s right to privacy. Despite this legal precedent, anti-choice legislators have worked overtime to roll back these essential protections and limit access to abortion. Another anti-abortion bill, HB 167, was passed in 2021, and will appear on the November Ballot as the ‘Born Alive’ referendum.
The ‘Born Alive’ referendum would result in Montana’s adoption of the “Born Alive Infant Protection Act, a convoluted and redundant policy that was intentionally designed to mislead the public. Despite its principled name, the “Born Alive’ initiative is little more than a thinly veiled effort to criminalize healthcare providers and interfere with standard medical care. HB 167 was introduced by Rep Matt Regier (R) who also attempted to establish an abortion court to intimidate low-income women who needed abortion care. This bill died in process at the very end of the 2021 Montana Legislative Session. Anti-choice legislators intentionally selected the “Born Alive” issue for the November ballot. This initiative further stigmatizes abortion care and was chosen to mobilize the anti-choice voting block and help boost turnout for far-right policies and candidates in November.
This bill has little to do with Montana or the needs of Montanans. In fact, this bill is a copy-paste of legislation introduced in the U.S. Congress back in 2017 and legislation seen in dozens of other states. Most concerning is the fact that back in 2002, George W. Bush signed the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002, which makes all state “Born Alive” efforts totally unnecessary. Montana legislators like Regier are wasting our time and forcing us to participate in political theater. Help us spread the word and vote NO on LR-131 this November.