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Montana Governor Vetoes Telemedicine Abortion Ban

Teddy Wilson

On the last day of the legislative session Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed several bills, including House Majority Leader Keith Regier (R-Kalispell)'s HB 587.

The Montana governor vetoed a bill Monday that would have banned the use of telemedicine for abortion care in the state, after signing a bill last week to protect Title X funds.

On the last day of the legislative session Gov. Steve Bullock (D) vetoed several bills, including House Majority Leader Keith Regier (R-Kalispell)’s HB 587.

HB 587 would have prohibited a medical practitioner from providing or attempting to provide an abortion on a pregnant woman or prescribing abortion-inducing drugs, except while in the physical presence of the woman.

Abortion providers use telemedicine to offer access to abortion care to women, many of them in rural areas, who do not live near a reproductive health-care provider. At a local health clinic, where the medication is dispensed, a patient will sit with a nurse while communicating with her doctor via video conferencing tools.

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In a statement after the veto, the governor said state lawmakers should be focused on expanding, not limiting, access to health care.

“As elected officials, we should all be working together to expand access to health-care services in Montana,” Bullock said in the statement, reported the Montana Standard. “Unfortunately, HB587 and several other bills proposed this session seek to do just the opposite, particularly for women and families living in the more rural part of our state.”

Anti-choice lawmakers around the country have introduced several bills over the past few years to end telemedicine abortion, many times at the urging of powerful national and state anti-choice groups.

In addition to his veto of the telemedicine ban, last week the governor also signed a bill into law that will protect access to reproductive health care in the state.

HB 606, the bill Gov. Bullock signed on Friday, sponsored by Rep. Christy Clark (R-Choteau), creates a special revenue account for funding Title X, a federal program devoted to helping low-income people access family planning services. The new law places the funding directly under the control of the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

“A woman’s reproductive health shouldn’t be subject to political whims of the Montana Legislature,” Bullock said in a statement, reported the Great Falls Tribune. “This important law will ensure that women across Montana have access to this most basic of health care, such as mammograms, family planning services and cancer screening without facing a fight in the halls of the capitol building every two years.”

Supporters of the new law say it takes the funds out of legislature’s hands, where it has faced perennial political attacks, such as during the 2013 legislative session when lawmakers attempted to eliminate $4.6 million in Title X funds that provide basic health care to 23,000 Montanans.

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