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Mont. Senate passes novel late-term abortion rules

HELENA, Mont. (BP) — The Montana state Senate has passed a bill requiring abortionists to try to save babies born at 24 weeks of gestation and older. Even if the Republican-controlled House passes Senate Bill 282, the bill still faces an uncertain future. The Senate voted 32–18 in favor of the bill, just shy of a two-thirds majority needed to override a likely veto from pro-abortion Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.

Montana law currently prohibits late-term abortions except to save the mother’s life. But SB 282 would require the abortionist, even in that rare case, to induce labor or deliver the baby by Caesarean section and then provide the baby “life-sustaining support.” The bill, passed by the Senate on Feb. 23, also prohibits the abortionist from “intentionally [causing]” a viable baby’s death “prior to or during delivery.”

Abortionists who violate the law could be charged with a felony.

The bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Albert Olszewski, an orthopedic surgeon, said he’s “proposing two methods of terminating a pregnancy — and both would produce a live birth and it’s safe for the mother.”

Olszewski said the bill “represents a paradigm shift.”

“It reverses the pro-choice argument that the safest way to save a woman’s life is to kill the baby,” Olszewski said. Citing statistics he submitted to the Senate during deliberations, he said induction of labor and C-sections are “the two safest methods available to terminate a pregnancy.” Olszewski added that the real danger is “for the legitimacy of the pro-choice stance on late-term abortions.”

Martha Stahl, CEO of Planned Parenthood Montana, disagreed, calling the bill “unconstitutional” and saying the legislation “requires women to undergo invasive medical procedures that might not be the best medical options for a woman.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana also opposed the bill, saying SB 282 “flies in the face of” Supreme Court rulings that prohibit states from setting viability markers. The bill does not specify a strict gestational age of viability, but instead defines viability as “24 weeks or more, or that a [baby] is able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid, whichever occurs earlier.”

The first of its kind, the bill would likely affect few women and children. The pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute reports that approximately 1 percent of abortions are done for any reason related to the mother’s health.

A more detailed study indicates that abortions specifically to save a mother’s life are considerably rare. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, which requires abortionists to report the reason for each abortion, found that only 47 of 71,740 abortions (about 1 in every 1,526) carried out in Florida in 2015 were done to save the mother’s life.

In Montana, there were 1,842 abortions in 2013, and 1,690 in 2014.