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Montanans Join National Protests Against Abortion Bans

Women hold  pro-choice signs during a rally in Missoula, May 21, 2019.
Edward O'Brien
Montana Public Radio
Women hold pro-choice signs during a rally in Missoula, May 21, 2019.

Montanans in Missoula, Billings and Kalispell today joined nationwide protests against abortion bans in southern states.

At the Missoula County Courthouse speakers expressed outrage over legislation in Alabama, Georgia, Ohio and Missouri to a crowd of about 200 people.

"If you want to bring that nonsense to the state of Montana, you are a weak man," Chase Porter Gay, vice-chair of the Missoula County Democrats, told the crowd in Missoula.

“Weak men want the government to dictate the choices women can make."

The rally was sponsored by Missoula Rises, the Blue Mountain Clinic and Missoula County Democrats.

In Missoula, speakers said Montana places a premium on the right to privacy and that government has no place inserting itself between women and their health care providers.

But Nancy Keenan, who previously led both the Montana Democratic Party and NARAL Pro-Choice America said Montana is not insulated from anti-abortion sentiment.

"Women have made their decision. They know what they want. To have government throw roadblocks up, even in Montana, which they have — no it’s not the Bible Belt but we fight the same fight here."

People in in Missoula joined nationwide protests against abortion bans in southern states, May 21, 2019.
Credit Edward O'Brien / Montana Public Radio
Montana Public Radio
People in in Missoula joined nationwide protests against abortion bans in southern states, May 21, 2019.

The renewed abortion debate is sure to be a hot topic during the upcoming 2020 election.

Democratic U.S. House candidate Kathleen Williams tweeted last week, “The abortion bans we're seeing in Georgia and Alabama are wrong.”

Democrat Tom Winter, also running for Montana’s House seat describes the new restrictions in Alabama and Georgia as, "Direct assaults on the basic rights of women as citizens and as people."

Republican incumbent Greg Gianforte opposes abortion, including late-term and partial-birth abortion.

Republican Gubernatorial Candidates Al Olszewski, Tim Fox and Corey Stapleton all oppose abortion.

Less-well-known Republican Gubernatorial candidate Gary Perry introduced a bill when he was a state senator to require parental notification when a minor has an abortion.

Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate Wilmot Collins supports a woman’s right to abortion services, describing Alabama’s new policy as a "grave error."

Steve Daines, Montana’s Republican incumbent in the U.S. Senate, opposes abortion, announcing in January his intent to create the Senate’s first ever pro-life caucus.

In Billings, around 60 people gathered at Planned Parenthood Montana’s rally Tuesday on the County Courthouse lawn.

Kathy Walters said people should not be able to legislate women’s bodies.

"You’re not going to get rid of abortion, you’re just going to outlaw it and make it more dangerous. Women have the right to decide if they want to continue a pregnancy or not."

Stacey Schumer says she’s a long-time Planned Parenthood patient, and says she’s “across the board”: she says she has one daughter, has given up two children for adoption, and has had an abortion.

"In that time, with my situation, it was the safest and smartest thing for me to do. I was not in a good relationship, it was extremely abusive and I just knew that he could control me and possibly kill me knowing that I had his child. And so it was the best choice that I could make, and I was so glad and relieved that I could make that choice."

About a dozen counter-protesters clustered on the sidelines holding signs.

Amy Seymour is president of Yellowstone Valley Christians for Life, and she sees a ban on abortion as protecting the lives of women, children, and people in general.

"Because if you draw the line somewhere, as to this human being is not a person, but that human being is, then you can draw the line anywhere, and that’s what the Nazis did, that’s what slave owners did. They said these are human beings but they’re not persons. And that’s what the abortion industry is doing nowadays too."

She says she’s also saddened that Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock chose to veto several bills in the recent Montana legislative session. One would have required doctors to offer an ultrasound before performing an abortion. Another would have prohibited abortions after 20 weeks, and the third was a so-called “born alive” bill requiring medical care for a survivor of an attempted abortion. All three were introduced and supported by Republican lawmakers. Gov. Bullock, a Democrat, vetoed all three citing the need to keep such decisions between the woman and the people she chooses to involve.

Copyright 2020 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.
Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.