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"Personhood" abortion ban advances on party-line House vote

But, proposal likely to stall in Senate
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Posted at 4:36 PM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-22 13:25:58-04

HELENA — Republicans in the Montana House advanced a proposed constitutional amendment that would lead to banning all abortion in Montana – but the measure is unlikely to make it to the 2022 ballot.

The House voted 67-33 on a straight party-line vote for House Bill 337, which would amend the state constitution to say “all members of mankind” at any stage of development, including a fertilized egg, are a legal person.

Any proposed constitutional amendment before the Legislature needs the support of at least 100 legislators to be placed before voters in the next election.

If 67 House members favor HB337 on its final vote Friday, the bill would need 33 votes in the Senate to be placed on the ballot – meaning at least two Democrats would have to support it.

In debate on the House floor Thursday, Democrats derided the bill as an unconstitutional attack on the privacy rights of Montanans and particularly women, whose rights would be superseded by those of the fetus they’re carrying.

Rep. Rob Farris-Olsen, D-Helena, said the measure, if it became part of the constitution, would ban abortion before most women know they are pregnant. It also would allow people other than the woman to assert rights of the fetus, such as an estranged spouse or grandparent, he said.

Supporters of the bill likened abortion to “murder” and the Holocaust.

“How long are we going to remain silent and afraid to speak up and act with a unified voice that life is fundamentally sacred?” said Rep. Scot Kerns, R-Great Falls. “That the unborn are alive and are persons and that their abortion is murder? How long, oh Lord, how long?”