Abortion Bill Seeks to Change the Montana Constitution

Greg DeVries, sponsor of HB 302

Greg DeVries, sponsor of HB 302

KBMF - HB 302 - Legislative Coverage

A bill in the Montana Legislature seeks to outlaw abortion by changing language to the Montana constitution. House Bill 302, carried by Greg DeVries, a Republican from Jefferson City’s House District 75, would change the definition of ‘person’ in Article II, Section 17 of the state constitution, which covers due process of law. It reads: “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.” Representative DeVries seeks to apply a new meaning to the word’ person’ in this section, to including quote mankind at any stage of development, beginning at the stage of fertilization or conception.’

Since House Bill 302 is seeking a constitutional amendment, it would require 2/3rds of the entire legislature to pass, at which point it would be put on the ballot for Montana voters to decide on.

Representative DeVries brought the bill forward during a recent House Judiciary committee meeting.

“At conception, personhood begins, and along with that, the rights afforded to all persons, as guaranteed in our Constitution.”

After his introduction, Representative DeVries sat down in order to let the public hearing begin. Chairman Alan Doane then assessed the crowd.

“Can I see a show of hands please. How many proponents for HB 302 today? Ok. Now can we see a show of hands for opponents. Ok, it looks like it’s fairly evenly mixed. let’s go an hour and fifteen minutes for proponents.”

Proponents included pastors and church members from congregations near the capitol, as well as former state officials, and laypeople with strong opinions about personhood and abortion.

“I just urge you to maybe make this straight for those that don’t know that that fetus is a person.”

”And I would like you to consider the reality that the product of your work here is the display of the collective morality of Montana and Montanans.”

”I am here to be a witness to the children being murdered. Yes, you all know that is true, murdered in this city and others across the State of Montana. The murder of children is happening under your watch, and with your legal approval.”

”Life begins at conception. Everybody should understand that. We’re intelligent enough to understand that. People have a choice, and the choice is to either conceive or not conceive. After a child is conceived, that child has a right to life.”

”The bible has many more citations that go beyond just Christ. For instance….”

Opponents to the bill were afforded the same hour and fifteen minutes to explain their opposition to House Bill 302 to the House Judiciary Committee.

SK Rossi of the Montana ACLU spoke first for opponents.

“First I just want to express sympathy for the folks in the room who have experienced any sort of trauma around reproductive healthcare choices they’ve made, or regret, regarding those choices. And also express sympathy for the folks who have made choices around reproductive healthcare that they don’t regret and have been made to feel ashamed by this bill and this hearing this morning.”

Other opponents debated the moment at which human life begins, and called into question other aspects of the arguments put forth by proponents of HB 302.

”In my opinion, when the brain blooms in the fetus, at that moment when the brain blooms, it’s an individual. It’s the same individual occurrence that happens when the fingerprints develop.”

”Planned Parenthood of Montana strongly opposes this bill and urges a no-vote. The proposed constitutional amendment could affect important life decisions that should be made by individuals in consultation with their families and doctors.”

”There are also cases, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, where I have to say, on behalf of our reproductive specialists, where ectopic pregnancies occur. Those are situations where the life of the mother is at stake and physicians are asked to make a determination as to what to do and how to treat that patient.”

“Native American women are two times more likely to be raped than any other. One in three urban Native America women will be raped in their lifetime. I am one of those women. My autonomy and control of my body was taken from me for the first time when I was 14 years old, and again when I was 20. My freedom to access emergency contraception and prevent pregnancy after I was raped allowed me o regain control of my body, and helped me to move forward from these painful and traumatizing experiences.”

Analysis of the bill thus far has yielded questions about section three of the proposed language, which says quote no cause of action shall arise as a consequence of harm caused to an unborn baby by an unintentional act of its mother.” The bill does not specify how of if law enforcement would investigate the causes of miscarriages, and if prosecutors would interpret the new rule as a basis to investigate miscarriages.

Republican members of the House Judiciary committee, including Greg DeVries, did not return calls or emails to comment.

Personhood bills have a history of failing to pass in the Montana Legislature, and tomorrow’s judiciary committee meeting at 8AM will determine if this latest attempt to outlaw abortion in the state will make its next step towards the ballot. You can watch all Montana Legislative meetings and sessions live or after the fact online at leg.mt.gov.

For KBMF, I’m Clark Grant.

Watch the initial hearing here: http://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00309/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20190207/-1/35794