Medical professionals, patients speak out against ‘born alive’ referendum

By: - September 21, 2022 7:03 pm

Dr. Tim Mitchell speaks against LR 131 or the “Born Alive Infant Protection Act” on September 21, 2022. (Photo by Nicole Girten/Daily Montanan)

Lea Bossler said it was the perfect spring day last year, when her daughter Maesyn breathed fresh air on her own, with no tape or tubes on her face, for the first and last time.

“It was three hours of the most beautiful yet devastating heartbreak, but it was peaceful, not traumatic,” Bossler said.
Bossler’s daughter, who lived just over three months, had Fetal Inflammatory Response Syndrome, which she said was due in part to impacts from Long Covid.

Bossler said her and her husband were able to choose how they wanted to spend their final moments with Maesyn, a choice they wouldn’t have under LR-131, which will appear on the November ballot.

LR 131, also called the “Born-Alive Infant Protection Act,” would impose criminal penalties, up to 20 years in prison or a $50,000 fine, on health care providers who do not act to preserve the life of “born-alive infants,” as defined in the ballot language, “including infants born during an attempted abortion.”

The language for the bill stems from House Bill 167, which was referred by the 2021 Legislature to voters in the 2022 general election.

Bossler joined medical professionals and another patient at the Montana Capitol on Wednesday to speak out against the ballot measure.

Dr. Tim Mitchell, an OB/GYN who specializes in maternal-fetal medicine, said LR 131 is “propaganda” and part of a false narrative.

“The outcomes that this initiative claims to exist simply do not happen,” Mitchell said. “This initiative will hurt Montana families who are suffering from some of the most tragic outcomes that one can experience during a pregnancy.”

Mitchell said that sometimes with high-risk pregnancies there can be complications when there are limits to how far medical care can change outcomes.

“In these situations, it is critical that the family has the time to process this information and to meet with specialists who have extensive experience with these problems. It is also critical that the family has the ability to make healthcare decisions for themselves and their unborn child,” Mitchell said.

He said this ballot measure would prevent families from being able to make these decisions.

“LR-131 will force physicians to attempt to place a breathing tube in a baby so small that it will not fit and there is no lung tissue that can receive breaths. It will force them to provide chest compressions and place IVs and give medications even when the healthcare team and the family know that none of the interventions will have an impact on the tragic but inevitable outcome,” he said.

HB 167 was introduced by Rep. Matt Regier, R-Kalispell, during the 2021 legislative session. Regier wasn’t immediately available for comment.

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Nicole Girten
Nicole Girten

Nicole Girten is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune as a government watchdog reporter. She holds a degree from Florida State University and a Master of Science from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.