HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana voters have rejected a legislative referendum that raised the prospect of criminal charges for health care providers unless they take “all medically appropriate and reasonable actions to preserve the life” of an infant born alive, including after an attempted abortion.
Health care professionals and other opponents argued the proposal could rob parents of precious time with infants born with incurable medical issues if doctors are forced to attempt treatment.
“Today’s win sends a clear message to state leadership: Montanans demand our right to make private health care decisions for ourselves and our families with the help of our trusted medical teams — and without interference from politicians,” Hillary-Anne Crosby, a spokesperson for an organization called Compassion for Montana Families that opposed the measure, said in a statement Thursday.
The outcome comes after a series of wins for abortion rights supporters in states around the country where abortion was directly on the ballot during the midterm elections. Voters enshrined abortion protections into state constitutions in Michigan, California and Vermont. They also voted down an anti-abortion constitutional amendment in conservative Kentucky, just as voters did in Kansas in August.
Supporters said the proposed Montana law was meant to prevent the killing of infants outside the womb in the rare occurrence of a failed abortion, something that is already is illegal. Penalties for violating the proposed law would have included up to $50,000 in fines and up to 20 years in prison.
The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Matt Regier of Kalispell, did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment. He has said that taking extreme measures to save the life of an infant with fatal deformities “is not medically reasonable.”
However, the referendum did not specifically create the option for parents to decline such care, opponents noted.
At least half of U.S. states have similar post-abortion born-alive laws in place, according to Americans United for Life, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that opposes abortion, aid in dying and infant stem cell research.
“This initiative would have criminalized doctors, nurses and other health care workers for providing compassionate care for infants, and, in doing so, overridden the decision-making of Montana parents,” said a statement from Lauren Wilson of the Montana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.