Montana Committee Passes Pro-Life Bill to Ban Late-Term Abortions After 24 Weeks

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Feb 22, 2017   |   3:38PM   |   Helena, Montana

A Montana Senate committee passed a bill on Tuesday to ban late-term abortions in the state.

The Ravalli Republic reports Montana Senate Bill 282 would prohibit abortions on viable, late-term babies after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Here’s more from the report:

Senate Bill 282, introduced by Albert Olszewski, R-Kalispell, would establish viability at 24 weeks and prohibit an abortion after that point, even if the pregnant woman’s life is at risk. In that case, the woman’s doctor would have to induce labor or deliver the fetus by cesarean section and do everything medically possible to support the fetus. A violation of the law would be a felony.

Olszewski introduced an amendment that would give doctors the option to use their best judgment on whether a fetus is viable at 24 weeks. The amended bill passed with seven Republicans voting yes and four Democrats voting no.

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union argued against the bill during the committee hearing, claiming it is unconstitutional, according to the report.

However, quite a few states have similar laws in place that prohibit abortions after viability, the point at which the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that states have an interest in protecting the life of the unborn child.

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In the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision in 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court stated that “viability…is the time at which there is a realistic possibility of maintaining and nourishing a life outside the womb, so that the existence of the second life can, in reason and all fairness, be the object of state protection that now overrides the rights of the woman.”  The high court went further to say that “a woman who fails to act before viability has consented to the state’s intervention on behalf of the developing child.”

In the Carhart v. Gonzalez decision of 2007 that upheld state bans on partial-birth abortion, the Supreme Court acknowledged that its previous precedents had “undervalued the state’s interest in potential life.”  The court flatly stated that laws restricting late-term abortions would be constitutional so long as they did not subject women to “significant health risks.”

Currently, 16 states prohibit abortions after 20 weeks, based on strong scientific evidence that unborn babies at this stage can feel pain, as well as advancing medical technology that is pushing back the point of viability.

Unlike the majority of states, Montana currently has few abortion regulations. According to the Guttmacher Institute, Montana does not require parental consent for minors before an abortion, and allows taxpayer-funded abortions through Medicaid. The state also has a Supreme Court that erroneously interpreted the state constitution as conferring a right to abortion.