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Montana rallies planned in support of reproductive rights

A crowd gathers on the steps of the Montana State Capitol

A crowd gathers on the steps of the Montana State Capitol as Gov. Greg Gianforte signs three bills limiting access to abortion on April 26.

Several cities in Montana will be part of a nationwide protest Saturday opposing restrictions against abortion access and urging the U.S. Supreme Court to support reproductive rights.

The main event is being organized by Women’s March and a “Rally for Abortion Justice” is being held in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 in September to allow a Texas law that bans most abortions to remain in effect, denying most women the right to an abortion in that state. The Montana State News Bureau reported it will not have any immediate effect in Montana.

However, the national protest comes one day after laws passed earlier this year by GOP lawmakers in the state Legislature are set to go into effect to ban abortions after 20 weeks gestational age; require a woman to be informed of the option to view an ultrasound before an abortion; and require informed consent before a drug-induced abortion and block providing the medication through the mail.

Last month, Planned Parenthood sued over those new laws, set to take effect Oct. 1, the Montana State News Bureau reported. The case was filed in Yellowstone County District Court. A Billings judge said he'd decide before Oct. 1 if he'll halt the implementation of these laws.

There's a fourth law included in the lawsuit filed in August, to prohibit health insurances plans sold in the federal exchange in Montana from covering abortion care, but it's not part of the preliminary injunction request.

"The new laws restricting access to abortion in Montana are in clear violation of our Constitution and right to privacy, just like the abortion ban in Texas. This is unacceptable," Cora Neumann, a public health expert and one of the speakers planned for Helena's rally, said in a Montana March for Reproductive Rights Facebook post.

Women’s March, the national organization, posted on its website that when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the request to block Texas' abortion ban, “they effectively took the next step towards overturning Roe v. Wade. Simply put: We are witnessing the most dire threat to abortion access in our lifetime.”

“That's why we’re marching in every single state and in our nation's capital Washington, DC - on October 2 before the Supreme Court reconvenes. We need to send an unmistakable message about our fierce opposition to restricting abortion access and overturning Roe v. Wade before it's too late.”

The Supreme Court reconvenes Oct. 4.

Nationwide, 600 other events are being planned. In Montana that includes Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls, Helena, Missoula and Whitefish, according to the Women’s March website. Organizers describe the events as peaceful calls to action and tell participants to wear masks to guard against COVID-19.

People can RSVP for these events at https://map.womensmarch.com/?source=website.

In Billings, Defend Reproductive Rights Billings will meet at noon Saturday at North Park Sidewalk, 6th Avenue N. and N. 19th Street.

“Come with signs and a strong message that we support reproductive rights!” organizers say on the Women’s March website. They said everyone is welcome.

In Bozeman, the Gallatin County March for Reproductive Rights will meet at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Haufbrau, 22 S. 8th Ave.

The Great Falls March for Reproductive Rights will be at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Gibson Park bandshell, 400 Park Drive N.

In Helena, the Montana March for Reproductive Rights will be at noon Saturday at the Montana state Capitol, 1301 E. 6th Ave.

Reilly Neill, who is with the 1,500-member Montana March for Reproductive Rights, said the event will include several speeches and is expected to draw 200-500 people.

People who attend are asked to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or get a test 48 hours before they attend. Neill said the event will be streamed on the group’s Facebook page.

The Missoula March to Defend Reproductive Rights will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at 199 W. Pine St.

“Come make and hold signs, listen to local speakers and chant in front of city hall to defend reproductive rights in our country and the state of Montana,” event organizers posted on the website.

Whitefish for Women’s Reproductive Rights will have a rally at noon Saturday at Whitefish City Hall, 418 E. 2nd St. 

Assistant editor Phil Drake can be reached at 406-231-9021.

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