The bad, the ambiguous, and the need for action...
The 62nd Montana Legislature was a session dominated by ideological attacks, short-sighted cuts, and a blatant disregard for public participation and the rules of the game. The choice community fought an unprecedented number of anti-choice bills, reactionary attempts to strip Montana families of access to affordable reproductive healthcare, and a systemic lack of respect and fairness for Montana women and families.
We have combated bills attacking our school districts and their right to implement health curricula, bills attacking doctor-patient confidentiality and privacy, bills attacking equality for women in insurance rating, budget amendments attacking access to critical reproductive healthcare, proposals leaving vulnerable teens out in the cold, and proposals assaulting the fundamental right of women and families to make private medical decisions. Because both chambers of the Montana Legislature were dominated by extreme anti-choice majorities, the preponderance of these bills passed the House, Senate, and were sent to the Governor.
BUT BECAUSE OF CONSISTENT AND PASSIONATE COMMUNICATION FROM PRO-CHOICE MONTANANS, we anticipate that the majority of these bills will be vetoed!
BECAUSE OF YOU, we were able to fight off the raid on our constitutional rights. Below is a summary of the nitty gritty; the catalog of bills we have fought, our analysis of where we now stand, and our call for future action. A summary of the budget and its effect on Montana women and families is forthcoming, but please read, and please stay engaged!
THE SUMMARY OF ANTI-CHOICE LEGISLATION…
HB 490– Constitutionally define person, Rep Wendy Warburton (R-Havre) A replica of the failed ballot initiatives, CI-100 and CI-102, this bill will amend the Montana Constitution to define life beginning at conception and afford all rights guaranteed under the Montana Constitution from the moment of fertilization. The bill also weakens the Montana Constitution’s right to privacy to say the state has a compelling interest in protecting the unborn. DIED IN SENATE JUDICIARY. A “no” vote is the pro-choice position.
SB 97 – Judicial Bypass for Parental Notification of Abortion, Sen. Jim Shockley (R-Victor) Requires a minor accessing abortion care to request judicial bypass if they cannot inform a parent or legal guardian of their decision. This bill is still unconstitutional as it does not differ in substance from the parental notification law that was permanently enjoined by the 1st District Court in 1999. Passed the House, Senate, and has not yet been vetoed by the Governor. A “no” vote is the pro-choice position.
SJ 9 – Resolution calling for passage of the Parental Rights Amendment, Sen. Rowlie Hutton (R-Havre) This bill would assert that the rights of parents are inviolable, and would make it more difficult to protect children in abusive situations. Passed Senate, House and enrolled into law. A “no” vote is the pro-choice position.
HB 283 – Allow gender to be considered in certain insurance coverage, Rep. Liz Bangerter (R-Helena) Would allow insurance companies to discriminate in pricing based on gender. This would skyrocket health insurance costs for women, who are more frequent users of health insurance, and would allow insurance companies to require additional riders for maternity coverage. Passed the House, Senate, and has not yet been vetoed by the Governor. A “no” vote is the pro-choice position.
HB 167 - Criminalize offense involving death to an unborn child, Rep. Keith Regier (R-Kalispell) Would amend Montana’s criminal code to include homicide and assault acts against and “unborn child.” These crimes would be separate and distinct from acts of violence committed against pregnant women, and creates tension with women’s rights to privacy as established in the Montana Constitution. This bill also defines life to begin at conception. Passed the House, Senate, and has not yet been vetoed by the Governor. A “no” vote is the pro-choice position.
HB 280 – Require ultrasound prior to abortion, Rep. Pat Ingraham (R-Billings) Would violate the doctor-patient relationship by requiring that doctors perform ultrasounds prior to any abortion. This bill would force physicians to perform ultrasounds even when it is not medically-appropriate to the patient’s situation or goes against the professional judgment of the physician. DIED ON THE HOUSE FLOOR. A “no” vote is the pro-choice position.
HB 456 - Define scope/ boundaries of human sexuality/reproduct ed in K-12 public schools, Rep. Cary Smith (R- Billings) A bill to require school districts to allow parents to opt-out of the sexuality education for their children and bans Planned Parenthood from public schools, passed yesterday out of the House Education committee AFTER they amended it to be an "opt-in" for sex education. Passed the House, Senate, and VETOED BY THE GOVERNOR. A “no” vote is the pro-choice position.
HB 544 - Provide abortion screening to prevent provider negligence and patient coercion, Rep Michael More (R-Gallatin Gateway) A bill that would create unnecessary screening mandates for abortion providers. This would implicate many OB/GYNS and family practice providers, and would force women choosing to terminate a pregnancy to undergo intrusive screening protocols for “risk factors.” DIED IN SENATE JUDICIARY. A “no” vote is the pro-choice position.
SB 176 - Allow Montana to opt out of fed health care payment of abortions, Sen. Rowlie Hutton (R-Havre) Under the guise of prohibiting the use of federal dollars to fund abortion services, SB 176 effectively bans any health insurance plan that covers abortion from participating in the health insurance exchange created by health reform. Passed the Senate, House, and VETOED BY THE GOVERNOR. A “no” vote is the pro-choice position.
HB 574 - Constitutional referendum to specify no right to abortion or its public funding, Rep. Wendy Warburton (R-Havre) a Constitutional Amendment to state in the Montana Constitution that there is no right to abortion or public funding for abortion was heard in the House Judiciary Committee. The bill violates the requirements of how to even DRAFT a constitutional amendment. The substance of the amendment would deny women the right to privacy, due process, and equal protection. DIED ON THE SENATE FLOOR. This bill required a 2/3 majority of the entire legislature in order to pass. A “no” vote is the pro-choice position.
HB 627 - Referendum to revise parental notice of abortion and judicial bypass, Rep. Jerry Bennett (R-Libby) Requires a minor accessing abortion care to request judicial bypass if they cannot inform a parent or legal guardian of their decision. This bill is still unconstitutional as it does not differ in substance from the parental notification law that was permanently enjoined by the 1st District Court in 1999. It is the identical referendum version of SB 97. Passed the House, Senate, and transmitted to the Secretary of State for the 2012 ballot. A “no” vote is the pro-choice position.
HB 516 - Anti-discrimination ordinances to state law, Kris Hansen (R-Havre) This bill is a response to the Missoula non-discrimination ordinance, and would prohibit a municipality from implementing its own non-discrimination policy. Passed the House, DIED IN SENATE LOCAL GOVERNMENT. A “no” vote is the pro-choice position.
HB 457 – Pregnant Woman Protection Act, Pat Noonan (D-Butte) This bill would have established enhanced penalties for assault against a pregnant woman, but was amended by Republicans to include the term “unborn child.” The bill is now an anti-choice bill and is opposed by the reproductive rights community. Passed the House, DIED IN SENATE JUDICIARY. A “no” vote is the pro-choice position.
WHERE WE GO FROM HERE…
Without question, the 2011 Legislative Session was one of the most difficult the choice community has faced. The attacks on Planned Parenthood at the national level, the ideological agenda of the far right, and the loss of many pro-choice seats in the legislature all merged into a perfect storm of reactionary politics and a majority with enough votes to trample on the rights and programs that protect Montana women and families. Fortunately, throughout the session, we had the safety net of a pro-choice Governor who supports our constitution and supports access to reproductive healthcare. In short, while the attacks were numerous and vicious, in the end, we were able to prevent the majority of the anti-choice proposals from becoming law.
Also without question, we know the fight continues immediately from here. The 2010 elections swept in a flood of radical, and anti-choice, legislators who have done their best to disenfranchise Montana families, trample on our constitution, and deny healthcare access to our neighbors and fellow Montanans. And we need them to be swept right back out!
Ultimately, the actions of these legislators were unfair, they were dirty politics as usual. And we cannot let this stand. The battle for our rights and our future starts now. And we are asking you to stay engaged, stay informed, and help us take back our state.
Over the next year and a half, you will have countless opportunities to phonebank, write letters to the editor, door-knock, honk and wave, attend community forums, and donate your time and energy to the fight for Montana women and families! Please watch for opportunities to volunteer in your community, and thank you for all of your hard work and commitment to reproductive rights and healthcare access for EVERY MONTANAN!