by Steven Ertelt
March 31, 2008
Helena, MT (LifeNews.com) — In an about face, Right to Life of Montana has announced it will endorse the statewide initiative that would put a personhood proposal on the November ballot. The group had previously taken no position on the measure, that could pave the way for banning abortions.
CI-100 would establish legal personhood for unborn children and could pave the way for banning abortions in the state, but not every pro-life group is on board with the idea.
Right to Life of Montana took no position on the measure, executive director Gregg Trude previously told LifeNews.com.
Trude had said the organization’s bylaws support the concept of human life beginning at conception.
"Right to Life of Montana’s goal is to enhance the value of and to seek the protection of all human life, from conception until natural death. The primary method of achieving this goal is public education and legislation," the group said.
But, on Monday, Trude told LifeNews.com that members of the group’s political action committee board of directors convinced other members of the board to sign on.
"The Montana Right To Life Political Action Committee today announces its endorsement of pro-life initiative CI-100, The Human Life Amendment to the Montana Constitution and encourages activity for its success," RTLM said in a statement.
Trude expanded on the statement in comments to LifeNews.com. He said the group still may not help gather signatures to qualify the measure for the fall ballot, but pointed out local chapters can do so.
"This endorsement does not force at this time Right to Life of Montana to help with the initiative process, it just allows for the individual chapters to collect signatures for CI-100 and encourage activity that could help the initiative," he said.
In order for CI-100 to make it on the November 2008 ballot, it must have 44,000 signatures from registered Montana voters.
The Catholic bishops of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings and the Diocese of Helena have said they have significant concerns about it.
They commended the pro-life principles behind CI-100 but they recently issued a statement saying they have problems with the strategy behind it.
The bishops said they don’t believe CI-100 "is the most beneficial venue to pursue necessary change" and indicated a concern that it would be overturned in court and add to the pro-Roe v. Wade legal precedent.
Moe Wosepka, executive director of the Montana Catholic Conference, spoke with the Great Falls Tribune about the decision not to endorse the initiative.
"It defines person without any exceptions and it affects several different parts of our state statutes," Wosepka said. "Since it affects such a wide range of laws with very little definition, I just don’t think it would ever stand up (in court)."
He said the bishops considered the proposal but decided against allowing parishes to officially endorse it or offer support for fundraising or signature gathering activities.
Members of Constitution Party of Montana, including state Rep. Rick Jore, worked with the Thomas More Law Center to draft the initiative. It is one of several measures backers are pushing, including others in Colorado and Georgia.
Pro-abortion groups in Montana, including Planned Parenthood, NARAL’s Montana affiliate and Montana Women Vote, have formed a coalition against the pro-life proposal.
The Montana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Montana Human Rights Network are joining the opposition as well.
Montana NARAL calls the measure "an attempt to redefine when life begins and take away womens ability to make private medical decisions."
Jore and his supporters have until June 20 to get the signatures and he has formed a new ballot committee called Life for Montana to organize the effort.
Should it receive enough signatures, the measure would be placed on the 2008 ballot and spark a statewide abortion debate.
The state has long had problems with language from its constitution getting in the way of reducing abortions as it is one of a handful that have a privacy clause that its state supreme court has misinterpreted to mean that abortion should be legal without limits.
The Montana Supreme Court has previously ruled pro-life legislation unconstitutional on that basis despite federal courts saying the bills comply with federal constitutional requirements and similar bills allowed in other states.
Some pro-life advocates see the measure as not fully addressing the court’s decision and favor an amendment to make the privacy clause abortion neutral.
Related web sites:
Right to Life of Montana — https://www.rtlmt.org