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Montana Supreme Court says pro-abortion ballot proposal can proceed

by | Mar 22, 2024

By Bridget Sielicki

Montana State Capitol
Photo: David Wilson
CC BY 2.0 DEED

The Montana Supreme Court ruled Monday that a ballot measure that would enshrine a “right” to abortion in the state’s constitution can proceed.

The ruling centers around proposed ballot measure C-14, which “affirms the right to make and carry out decisions about one’s own pregnancy, including the right to abortion” and prohibits the government from “denying or burdening the right to abortion before fetal viability.”

The concept of “viability” is entirely subjective and can be left to the abortion practitioner (who stands to profit from an abortion) to decide.

The state’s attorney general, Austin Knudsen, had previously stopped the ballot measure’s progress on the grounds that it “logrolled” several issues into one amendment and could therefore confuse voters. Knudsen also noted that the proposal should come with a fiscal note, indicating its financial impact.

In writing the opinion for the 6-1 decision, Justice Ingrid Gustafson overruled Knudsen’s decision that the ballot measure was “legally insufficient.”

“CI-14 effects a single change to the Montana Constitution on a single subject: the right to make decisions about one’s own pregnancy, including the right to abortion. If CI-14 is placed on the ballot, voters may ultimately agree or disagree with the proposed change that CI-14 offers, but they will be able to understand what they are being asked to vote upon because CI-14 does not effect two or more changes that are not substantive and closely related,” Gustafson wrote.

“If CI-14 is adopted, questions may arise as to its interpretation, but this is true of the entire text of the Montana Constitution and its subsequent amendments, and processes exist to resolve those questions accordingly.”

Gustafson also disagreed that the ballot measure needs to be accompanied by a fiscal note.

“OBPP determined that there will be no fiscal impact in fiscal years 2024 and 2025 and it concluded that it was unable to determine any fiscal impact beyond that. Without a determination that a proposed ballot initiative will have a fiscal impact, no fiscal statement by the Attorney General is either warranted or provided for by statute,” Gustafson wrote.

The ballot measure is being pushed by Montanans Securing Reproductive Rights (MSRR), which is backed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana. The group had hoped that the Supreme Court would approve the ballot measure’s language outright, but instead, the court ruled that it would need to be resubmitted to Knudsen for approval.

With this stipulation, it is still possible for Knudsen to find some other legal challenges to the measure’s approval.

According to Montana Free Press, after it receives final approval from Knudsen’s office, the measure’s language must then pass through a legislative committee review, and MSRR must collect and submit more than 60,000 verified signatures to county election administrators before June 21 in order for it to appear on the November ballot.

Editor’s note. This appeared at Live Action News and reposted with permission.

Categories: Judicial