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Election news from Yellowstone Public Radio and its partners to help you make an informed decision at the polls.

Montana voters reject so-called 'Born Alive' ballot measure

Under the measure, medical professionals who "fail to take medically appropriate and reasonable actions" could face up to $50,000 in fines and up to 20 years in prison.
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Under the measure, medical professionals who "fail to take medically appropriate and reasonable actions" could face up to $50,000 in fines and up to 20 years in prison.

Montana voters rejected a measure that would have required medical workers to provide care to infants born prematurely or in rare instances of surviving an attempted abortion or face penalties, according to a call by the Associated Press. Critics say that infanticide is already illegal and the proposed amendment was unnecessary.

If LR-131, a legislative referendum for the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, had passed, medical professionals who did not "take medically appropriate and reasonable actions" could have faced punishments of up to $50,000 in fines and up to 20 years in prison.

The measure declared that an embryo or fetus is a legal person with a right to medical care if born prematurely or survives an attempted abortion, among other birth scenarios.

Members of the medical community opposed the amendment, saying it represents government overreach in decisions made between a patient and provider. They say in instances where a baby is born early or with fetal anomalies, doctors will be forced to perform painful and unnecessary procedures that will keep the family from spending the final moments with their infant.

Dr. Brad Holbrook, a high-risk pregnancy specialist in Missoula, says rejecting the law means families suffering pregnancy complications will have options.

“If they want a full resuscitation for their baby if there’s a chance of survival, wonderful," he said. "If they want to just hold their baby close while it passes away they can still do that.

"That’s, for me, the biggest piece is they have the freedom and the ability to make those choices."

Hillary-Anne Crosby, the campaign coordinator for the opposition group No on LR-131, says rejecting the law upholds Montanans' right to make their own medical decisions without government interference.

“It sends a message that Montanans want our right to make those private medical decisions with our teams of doctors and nurses and that we don’t want that right encroached upon,” she said.

The campaign has engaged a number of medical professionals throughout Montana who she says are prepared to continue protecting Montanan’s constitutional right to privacy when it comes to medical decisions.

Republican proponents of the initiative said it was morally necessary to protect babies that survive an attempted abortion even though instances of this occurring are rare.
YPR reached out to Republican state Rep. Matt Regier, who introduced the born-alive bill, but did not hear back by deadline.

In 2002 a federallaw granted infants born alive the same rights as persons but did not mandate care or include penalties. Eighteen states have passed similar laws.

Abortion continues to be legal in Montana. The state's constitution protects it under its right to privacy.

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Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.