The interior of the Montana state capitol in Helena, which was completed in 1899, 10 years after the state was admitted to the union. (Photo by Eric Seidle for the Daily Montanan.)
Republicans in the Senate failed to gather enough votes Wednesday to send to voters a constitutional amendment that would define “personhood” in the state constitution and effectively ban abortions throughout Montana.
The so-called “personhood amendment,” proposed in the form of Belgrade GOP Rep. Caleb Hinkle’s House Bill 337, received 29 of the 34 votes necessary to pass. As a constitutional amendment, the proposal needed a two-thirds vote across both chambers to pass.
The bill would have put to the voters the question of whether to add language to the constitution defining person as “mankind at any stage of development, beginning at the stage of fertilization or conception.” The bill would not allow for legal action arising from an “unintentional act,” such as a miscarriage, but created no exemptions for rape or incest.
House Bill 337 passed out of the House 66-33. Due to the two-thirds requirement, several Democrats — who have been unified in opposition to the amendment — would have needed to flip and support the bill in order for it to pass out of the Senate. But all Senate Democrats and two Republicans voted against the amendment, which opponents warned could violate the Montana’s privacy protections in the state constitution, even setting aside the political debate around abortion. Republican legislators have proposed similar constitutional amendments several sessions in a row, though none made it on the ballot.
Several other bills restricting abortion have already made their way through the legislative process. Opponents have warned with similar constitutional issues with some of those proposals.
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