Montana Pro-Life and Abortion Advocates at Polls to Lobby on Ballot Proposal

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 3, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Montana Pro-Life and Abortion Advocates at Polls to Lobby on Ballot Proposal

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 3
, 2008

Helena, MT ( — As a couple hundred thousand Montana residents head to the polls across the state today to vote in the primary elections, activists on both sides of the abortion debate will be telling voters whether to sign a petition to get a high-profile measure on the November ballot.

CI-100 would establish legal personhood for unborn children and could pave the way for banning abortions in the state.

In order for CI-100 to make it on the November 2008 ballot, it must have 44,000 signatures from registered Montana voters.

Backers of the proposal will be out in force at the polls today to ask voters to sign petitions to get the measure qualified for the general election. The need to get to their signature goal by June 20 so the Secretary of State can validate them and approve the initiative.

Rep. Rick Jore of Ronan, who is behind the effort, told KTVQ he hopes today’s vote will give his group enough signatures to cross the finish line.

"We’re hoping our efforts at least are geared toward getting volunteers to the polling places in as many places as we can," he said. "We’ve got some very dedicated and passionate volunteers that I personally am very proud of."

Normally voters don’t see people from groups asking them not to sign petitions, but that’s what they’ll encounter today at polling venues across the state. That’s because Planned Parenthood, NARAL and other pro-abortion groups will have activists standing next to pro-life petition gatherers asking voters not to sign them.

Allyson Hagen, a spokeswoman for the groups, told the television station they will be out in force today.

"We actually think there is an opportunity to keep this from qualifying for the ballot," she said. "And we do have volunteers who are trained to be out and talking pro-actively to people about CI-100. And we hope people will decline to sign the petition."

As reported in March, Right to Life of Montana did an about face and endorsed the proposal.

However, 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 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.

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.