Montana Abortion-Personhood Amendment Fails to Qualify for Ballot Again
by Steven Ertelt
July 20, 2010
Helena, MT (LifeNews.com) — The personhood amendment has failed for the second time to qualify for the November ballot, making it so voters in the mountain state will not have a chance to vote on a measure that would define unborn children as people under law and potentially making abortions illegal.
The amendment split the pro-life community in the state with some groups and advocates supporting the signature gathering process.
Other pro-life advocates opposed the amendment on strategic grounds, saying it would only be overturned in court and add to the pro-abortion case law currently upholding Roe v. Wade. They suggest working to reform the courts to overturn Roe and allow states to, once again, prohibit abortions.
Constitutional Initiative 102 would have defined a human "person" under the scientifically accurate notion of the beginning of human life taking place at conception, or fertilization.
The measure, meant for the 2010 elections, is the second effort to get a personhood proposition on the ballot and it required 48,000 signatures from state residents. The first measure, in 2008, failed to get enough to qualify.
CI-102 volunteers received news yesterday that they were 6,000 signatures short of the required 48,674 signatures to put the amendment on the 2010 ballot.
Chet Gallagher, a volunteer with the Montana ProLife Coalition and Personhood Montana, would not call the failure a defeat.
"These are all volunteer signatures, which is an amazing feat in and of itself," he said. "The hardworking volunteers see this as a stepping stone to victory in 2012."
The two groups told LifeNews.com they see the victory in submitting more signatures than needed — though a portion of them were declared invalid because the people signing were not registered voters or for other reasons. They believe they will get the personhood amendment qualified for the 2012 ballot.
"All unpaid volunteers, this grassroots pro-life network will work to influence the November elections and bills during the 2011 legislative session," pledged Dr. Annie Bukacek, amendment organizer. "The killing of innocent humans is not compatible with a civilized society. We have barely begun the fight for the rights and liberties of unborn babies, and we will keep working at it until their personhood is established in our Montana Constitution."
The Catholic bishops of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings and the Diocese of Helena said they had significant concerns about the previous personhood effort. They commended the pro-life principles behind CI-100 in 2008 but said in 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.
Montana 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 even though similar bills are 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.
The personhood movement has seen discouraging results in other states.
Colorado voters voted down the first attempt by nearly a 3-1 margin, though voters in the state will cast ballots anew on a personhood amendment this November. The amendment has qualified for the ballot in Mississippi as well, but backers failed to get enough signatures in California and Missouri and lawsuits kept the Nevada and Alaska amendments off the ballot.
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