More than 200 people gathered for an anti-abortion rally at the Capitol Monday, including two dozen legislators, as abortion opponents predicted the 2011 Legislature will approve bills to restrict abortion in Montana.
“This year we have an incredible opportunity,” said Gregg Trude, executive director of Montana Right to Life. “We are inundated with pro-life legislators. … We’re praying that God will open the eyes of those who think killing babies is right, because it is wrong.”
About 25 lawmakers joined Trude at the front of the rally in the Capitol Rotunda, with some speaking about anti-abortion bills they are sponsoring. All the lawmakers were Republicans, who control majorities in the House and Senate. Trude has said that all 96 Republican lawmakers are pro-life.
The bills include a proposed amendment to the state constitution that declares a “person” is a human being “at the beginning of biological development;” a requirement that parents of a minor getting an abortion must be notified; and a requirement that a woman considering an abortion see an ultrasound image of her fetus.
Jeff Laszloffy, president of the Montana Family Foundation, said he believes Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, eventually will be struck down. But until it is, the Legislature can make “incremental changes” to abortion laws, he said.
He said he’s optimistic that some of these bills will pass and that Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, will sign some into law.
“Someday Roe v. Wade will be struck down,” Laszloffy said. “Someday a child will be called a child. Someday we will win.”
Sarah Elliott, spokeswoman for the governor, said Schweitzer has not taken a position on any bill dealing with abortion or related issues.
Gubernatorial candidate Ken Miller of Laurel, one of four Republicans running for governor in 2012, spoke briefly at the rally, saying the nation was founded on Christian principles and that the Constitution “protects all life — not at different ages, but all ages.”
Speakers at the rally often invoked God and prayer, asking those attending to pray for lawmakers to do the right thing. They also urged lawmakers to follow their conscience on abortion issues and not fall back on partisan positions.
“The crisis we have in America is a crisis of conscience,” said Rep. Michael More, R-Gallatin Gateway. “We have so defiled our conscience, we can no longer tell right from wrong.”
Stacey Anderson, public affairs director for Planned Parenthood of Montana, said Monday it appears Republicans will spend “a tremendous amount of time eliminating the right to privacy for Montana women,” despite Republicans’ professed rhetoric to concentrate on creating jobs and improving the state economy.
She also noted that Republicans in a budget committee voted Monday morning against funding an expansion of Medicaid money for family planning.
“They refuse to invest in family planning programs that save taxpayer money and reduce abortions in Montana,” Anderson said.
Rep. Wendy Warburton, R-Havre, who is sponsoring two proposed constitutional amendments, said one would specify that the Montana constitution does not guarantee a right to abortion or prevent its restriction.
The amendment, if passed, would “take the rug out from under” judges who have “stretched the privacy right beyond all common sense,” she said.
In recent years, Montana courts have struck down several laws restricting abortion, citing Montana’s strong constitutional right to privacy.
Reporter Mike Dennison: 443-4920 or firstname.lastname@example.org