The passionate emotions tied up within one of the nation’s most divisive social issues briefly rose to the surface during a Tuesday morning meeting of the House Judiciary Committee.
It was during the hearing of a bill the sponsor says is not supposed to be about abortion, rather the safety of unborn children from ‘wanted pregnancies.’ Yet the testimony spent a good deal of time talking about the former.
“The focus lies entirely with inserting abortion rhetoric into the state criminal code,” said Kim Leighton of NARAL Pro-Choice Montana regarding House Bill 104.
Bill sponsor Representative Keith Regier (R-Kalispell) says his bill does not stray into the abortion issue, specifically allowing exceptions such as, “emergency medical care” and “lawful medical procedures…with the consent of the pregnant woman.”
“This bill could be called the pregnant woman protection act,” Regier said, noting that under Montana law when a pregnant woman is killed, it is officially only considered one death.
Proponents said 36 other states have similar laws, many of which have been challenged up to the US Supreme Court, which has not found them in conflict with key pro-choice decisions such as Roe v. Wade.
The discussion on the bill was civil, with the emotion mentioned at the top of this post coming near the end of the committee’s questions of those who had provided comment.
Lynsey Bourke from Missoula’s Blue Mountain Clinic (a health facility that does provide abortion services) testified the bill infringes on Montana’s right to privacy.
First-term Representative Clayton Fiscus (R-Billings) repeatedly asked Bourke if she thought the other states that passed similar legislation were wrong to do so, and in a final follow-up asked “You’re saying this is wrong, conceptually, but there’s no factual evidence this is wrong?”
His question was objected to as ‘badgering the witness.’ Committee Chair Krayton Kerns (R-Laurel) upheld the objection.
“Let’s try to keep our questions to information gathering for this committee,” Kerns said. “The opinions of people out in the public will be different than ours. We can’t always confront everybody about it.”
No action was taken on the bill.