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Montana Governor Says He’ll Veto 20-Week Abortion Ban

Nicole Knight

The Montana GOP's "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" relies on junk science claiming a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks' post fertilization.

Montana’s Democratic governor plans to veto legislation that outlaws abortion care at 20 weeks, a spokesperson told Rewire on Thursday.

Gov. Steve Bullock “strongly believes a woman’s medical decision should stay between herself, her doctor, her family, and her faith,” said Bullock’s press secretary, Marissa Perry.

SB 329, known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, relies on junk science claiming a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks post fertilization—which doctors call 22 weeks’ gestation, calculated from the first day of a person’s last menstrual period. The bill bans abortions at 20 weeks’ fertilization, except in cases of serious physical health risk or life endangerment. In those instances, the emphasis remains on the fetus, with medical practitioners instructed to end the pregnancy in a way that gives the “best opportunity for the unborn child to survive.”

Violators of the Republican-backed measure could face fines of $1,000 or up to five years behind bars.

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Perry said Bullock had not yet seen the bill, but said the governor has a record of vetoing anti-abortion legislation. Bullock has ten days from when legislation reaches his desk to veto it, or the bill becomes law without his signature, Perry said.

Republicans control both of Montana’s legislative chambers. The bill’s lead sponsor, state Sen. Keith Regier (R-Kalispell), has backed various anti-choice bills over the years. He sponsored failed legislation to make abortion a homicide, and an unsuccessful ban on administering abortion pills via telemedicine. Regier was behind a 2012 fetal homicide bill, which went into law without the governor’s signature.

The influential anti-choice groups Americans United for Life and the National Right To Life Committee drafted the first “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act” for Nebraska in 2010, as Rewire reported. Since then, Republicans and reproductive rights opponents around the country have advanced or enacted unconstitutional 20-week abortion bans under the guise of preventing a fetus from “feeling pain.”

The medical establishment holds fetal pain is unlikely before the third trimester.

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