Montana Gov. Schweitzer Vetoes Bill Stopping Abortion Funding

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 5, 2011   |   1:16PM   |   Washington, DC

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed a bill yesterday that would protect taxpayers from having to pay for abortions with their tax dollars under the Obamacare health care law.

The national health care law has all 50 states creating state health insurance exchanges, but Obamacare contains no provisions preventing taxpayer funding of abortions. What the bill did include was a provision states could use to opt out of the abortion funding under the exchanges.

While several states have already taken advantage of the opt out provision and others are working on legislation, Schweitzer vetoed legislation the Montana legislature approved to opt out of the abortion funding. He vetoed Senate Bill 176 claiming the measure violates the privacy clause of the Montana’s state constitution and prevents Montanans from being able to access health care — though abortion is not health care.

The governor relied on a much-criticized decision by the Montana state Supreme Court to make his decision.

Pro-life legislators have long sought to limit the misuse of the privacy clause in the state constitution to allow for unlimited abortions. Montana is one of a handful of states where the state Supreme Court has misconstrued the Constitution to support abortion. The Montana Constitution, which originated in the early 1970s, contains a privacy clause that the drafters meant to apply to government surveillance like wiretapping. Instead, in the 1999 Armstrong decision allowing non-physicians to do abortions, the Montana Supreme Court allowed a virtually unlimited right to abortion by claiming the clause made it so.

To overturn the veto, legislators need two-thirds support from lawmakers in each chamber. While House Republicans may have enough voters to accomplish the override, the state Senate is considered less likely to achieve that.

When Congress passed the government-run health care bill, it did so without any limits on abortion funding and language mandating taxpayer financing of abortion in certain circumstances.

Obama eventually issued a controversial executive order supposedly taking the abortion funding issue off the table.

However, virtually every pro-life group said it would not mitigate the abortion funding because it doesn’t have the effect of law, could be reversed in the future, and because it didn’t tackle much of the abortion funding in the bill. The Obama administration could also ignore the order and not put it in place when the health care law goes into effect.

Arizona, Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, and Louisiana have passed similar bills that have already been signed into law by governors in those states and several other states are expected to consider legislation in their upcoming legislative sessions. Governors in Oklahoma and Florida vetoed similar legislation.

Other states such as South Carolina are working on similar legislation.

ACTION: Complain abou the veto to Governor Schwietzer at