Montana Referendum 131 Would Require Medical Care for Babies Who Survive Abortions

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Sep 23, 2022   |   12:12PM   |   Helena, Montana

Montana voters will have the opportunity to confirm on the November ballot that newborns who survive abortions are legal “persons” who deserve the same rights and medical care as anyone else.

The Born-Alive Infant Protection Act (Legislative Referendum 131) would protect Montana newborns from growing concerns about infanticide, especially viable, late-term babies who do not die in abortions as they are supposed to.

Dr. Al Olszewski, an orthopedic surgeon and former state senator, told the Independent Record that comments by former Virginia Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam in support of infanticide prompted the ballot measure.

Northam “introduced to the nation the idea [that] infanticide can now be considered post-birth abortion,” Olszewski said. “Now, we have to state in Montana that all children born in Montana automatically receive personhood rights.”

If voters approve the ballot measure, Montana law would ensure that babies who survive abortions are treated as “legal persons” with the same rights and protections as anyone else. The act requires health care workers to provide “medically appropriate and reasonable actions to preserve the life and health” of the baby, and imposes criminal penalties on those who neglect to do so.

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If a majority of voters approve the act, it would go into effect Jan. 1, 2023.

On Wednesday, opponents, including pro-abortion groups, attacked the measure during a press conference at the Montana State Capitol. According to the Record, Dr. Tim Mitchell, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist in Missoula, criticized the act as “really cruel,” claiming it would prevent families from holding their dying babies because it forces doctors to provide unnecessary medical treatments.

“LR-131 is a piece of propaganda, part of a false narrative created by those who are against individuals and families who want to make health care decisions without interference from the state,” Mitchell said. “The outcomes this initiative claims to exist simply do not happen.”

But the pro-life measure does not force doctors to make futile attempts to save dying babies. State Rep. Matt Regier, R-Kalispell, the lead sponsor, pointed to language in the act that specifies treatment should be given when “medically appropriate and reasonable,” KRTV 3 reports.

“Are you intentionally trying to kill the baby or not?” Regier said. “I know the opponents want to make it a gray area, but it’s not.”

Little is known about how many babies survive abortions – and how many are left to die without medical care – every year in the United States because few states keep track of such things.

But some do, and recent data from several states suggests dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of babies may survive abortions every year.

Between 2016 and 2018, three states reported 40 babies were born alive after botched abortions. According to the state health data, 11 babies were born alive in Minnesota, 10 in Arizona and 19 in Florida. Texas reported six babies were born alive in botched abortions in 2019. In Michigan, state health reports from 2008 through 2013 indicate that 11 babies were born alive after abortions.

According to the latest abortion report from the Minnesota Department of Health, five babies were born alive in abortions in the state in 2021.

For the past several years, Republicans in Congress have been trying to pass the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would increase protections for babies who survive abortions. The bill would require that the same basic medical care be provided to babies who survive abortions as would be provided to any other baby born at the same gestational age. It also would impose penalties on medical workers who neglect to provide that care. However, Democrat leaders have blocked the legislation dozens of times.

A recent report by Tessa Longbons, a research associate at Charlotte Lozier Institute, found that protections for babies who survive abortions are inconsistent across the United States, with fewer than half of states maintaining sufficient protections.

Reports from other countries prove that babies survive abortions, too, and legal protections for them are needed. In Canada, the Canadian Institute of Health Information recorded 766 late-term, live-birth abortions over a five-year period in 2018. And in Australia, the country’s health minister admitted that 27 babies survived abortions in the state of Western Australia between 1999 and 2016. A report out of Ireland also suggests babies are surviving abortions and being left to die there.