HELENA — On Friday, several hundred people filled the Montana State Capitol rotunda, praising new laws restricting abortion in the state and calling for more action in the coming months.
They took part in the annual Montana State March for Life, held each year around the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which established a nationwide right to abortion in 1973. The event brings together a number of organizations that advocated against abortion in Montana.
“This is a great day for life,” said Governor Greg Gianforte.
Gianforte was one of a number of elected leaders in attendance, along with U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale.
Speakers at the Capitol rally celebrated what they called the biggest successes for their movement in years. Gianforte, Montana’s first Republican governor in 16 years, signed a series of new regulations on abortion passed by the Republican majority in the state Legislature.
“For too long in Montana, your voices haven’t been heard in the governor’s office – or worse, they were ignored,” he said. “For too long, legislators worked tirelessly to get bills signed into law to protect life, with no success. For too long, measures protecting life had been met with a veto pen. We changed that.”
Many at the event said the battle over abortion is far from over. They expressed confidence that a conservative majority of Supreme Court justices will overturn Roe v. Wade later this year.
“When that is overturned, this battle moves front and center to the states,” said Daines. “By the grace of God and the election of 2020, Montana is ready to take control here and continue to work to protect the lives of the unborn.”
Daines argued that there’s been a change in how the public views abortion, particularly as we learn more about the development of a fetus. Other speakers echoed that, talking about plans to organize and advertise, in hopes of reframing the issue as one of human rights beginning before birth.
“We’ve got to change the hearts, the minds and the souls of the people who live here, so they stop choosing this option,” said Angela Copenhaver, who created the Human from Day One Project – a group already running TV ads in Montana.
After the Capitol rally finished, the event continued with a march to the Mazurek Justice Building, which houses the Montana Supreme Court. Jeff Laszloffy, president of the Montana Family Foundation, said they took that step because they want the justices to end two injunctions that are preventing some abortion restrictions from taking effect.
The first case they brought up is a current lawsuit challenging three bills the Legislature passed and Gianforte signed last year. Those laws ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, severely restrict abortion-inducing pills and require providers to ask women if they want to hear the fetal heartbeat or see an ultrasound of the fetus before having an abortion.
Planned Parenthood and one of its physicians filed suit over the laws, saying they unconstitutionally infringed on women’s right to privacy. In October, state District Judge Michael Moses blocked the laws from taking effect, saying the opponents had made a strong case that they should be invalidated.
Moses’ decision has been appealed to the Montana Supreme Court.
The other case Laszloffy brought up deals with LR-120, a 2011 voter-approved law that requires providers to notify parents before performing an abortion on a girl under the age of 16. It has also been enjoined because of a lawsuit.
The Supreme Court sent that case back to a lower court. Laszloffy says the case has been sitting in district court for years without substantial progress, and he urged justices to take action again.