WASHINGTON ― The Montana Senate has passed a bill that would effectively ban abortions at 24 weeks, even if the mother’s life is in danger, by requiring doctors to try to deliver the fetus alive.
The legislation, approved by senators on Thursday, establishes fetal viability at 24 weeks and threatens doctors with a felony if they perform an abortion for any reason after that point in a woman’s pregnancy. If abortion is necessary to save a woman’s life, doctors are required to either deliver the fetus by caesarian section or induce labor, even if those are not the best medical options for the woman’s health, and then try to resuscitate the baby.
The author of the bill, state Sen. Albert Olszewski (R), said the legislation “was inspired by a real situation, a situation where a late-term pregnancy put a woman in a life-threatening condition and had to deal with this horrible decision of being told she had to terminate this pregnancy.”
Democrats said the bill is unconstitutional and extreme, because it uses the guise of protecting women’s health to limit abortion.
“Think about all the people you want to have participate in that decision at that critical, difficult, painful decision,” said Sen. Dick Barrett (D). “Then ask yourself, ‘Do you want the members of the Montana Senate?’ I think the answer is no.”
A female Democratic senator pointed out that Olszewski is an orthopedic surgeon, not an obstetrician. Olszewski responded by saying he was “blushing” too much during his clinical rounds to become an OB-GYN.
Late-term abortions are very rare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 2 percent of abortions occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Women who do choose abortion in the third trimester often do so because they face difficult medical situations that arise late into the pregnancy.
The Montana bill has little chance of becoming law because Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, would likely veto it.