Montana Life Begins at Conception Initiative (2012)
|Not on Ballot|
| This measure did not or |
will not appear on a ballot
Although the 2012 versions of the amendment were legislatively-referred constitutional amendments, two different groups filed proposed language for three different versions of a pro-life measure (Issue #2, Issue #3 and Issue #5) as an initiated constitutional amendment for the 2010 ballot.
In July 2010, they joined forces behind a fourth proposed amendment, Issue #4 for the 2010 ballot, which failed to obtain ballot access. The primary sponsor of the initiative was Montana ProLife Coalition.
Steve Bullock, Montana's Attorney General, approved the ballot language of the initiated constitutional amendment during the week of September 4, 2009. However, opponents stated that the proposed ballot measure's language was misleading and also did not take into consideration a woman's right to privacy. An effort in Montana in 2008 to qualify the Montana Right To Life Initiative for the ballot was unsuccessful in collecting sufficient signatures to earn a spot on the ballot. The measure did not collect enough signatures to qualify it for the ballot. According to reports, the effort was about 6,000 signatures short of making the ballot.
Supporters of the pro-life side of the abortion issue included:
- Annie Bukacek, a physican in the state, who was the head of the Montana ProLife Coalition.
- State representative Wendy Warburton.
- State Senator Jonathan Windy Boy
- Former state representative Rick Jore.
- Former state representative Roger Koopman.
On October 16, 2009 religious leaders and other supporters of the 2010 initiative, which ultimately failed, gathered in Great Falls, Montana for a personhood conference. The conference, held at the Great Falls Christian Center, included signature gathering workshops and a panel of speakers that included state senators. The conference was the first of three conferences that were scheduled be held across the state during the weekend of October 16 to October 18. According to the president of Montana ProLife Coalition, Annie Bukacek: "We are thrilled to be getting together before this grand group of speakers. We will be there to share ideas, learn and rally for the legal designation of personhood for defenseless unborn humans that have been stripped of legal status in this country."
The main opposition that the proposed amendment faced was the Helena-based NARAL/Pro-Choice Montana. According to the group, there was a lot of doubt that proponents would gather enough signatures for the question to make the 2010 ballot. In the event that supporters did get sufficient signatures, opponents were confident that Montana voters would reject the amendment.
- The Roman Catholic Bishops of Montana made a statement in opposition to this amendment, stating that a "strategy to pass a state constitutional amendment declaring personhood is problematic, in part, because of its heavy reliance on unpredictable courts and dependence on future legislative actions to define and implement the law."
- Eagle Forum, a conservative, pro-life interest group led by Phyllis Schlafly, publicly announced its opposition to the Montana initiative, as well as personhood amendments in Florida, the Nevada and the Missouri. On November 30, 2009, the group posted the following statement on its website:
The ‘personhood’ initiative lost by a landslide of 73% to 27% in Colorado in 2008, and its unpopular coattails hurt good pro-life candidates there. This poorly designed initiative would not prevent a single abortion even it if became law, and its vague language would enable more mischief by judges.
Now its organizers, who provide little information about themselves or their funding, spread their disaster to key swing states like Florida, Missouri, Nevada and Montana. This hurtful effort misleads pro-lifers with the false hope that a referendum can overturn Roe v. Wade, when only the U.S. Supreme Court can do that. This enriches pro-abortion groups with a fundraising issue as they claim to preserve abortion by suing to stop this initiative, and they have already filed several lawsuits.
Florida's Catholic Bishops recently banned the collection of any signatures for this ill-advised initiative at churches there, and most pro-life groups also oppose this initiative. We encourage support of pro-life candidates, and oppose hurtful gimmicks like the personhood initiative.
- The Montana Catholic Conference, usually a pro-life cornerstone, opposed the measure, stating skepticism in the strategy of fully challenging the Roe v. Wade decision. According to Moe Wosepka, executive director of the group: "We want nothing more than to end abortions. We just have different strategies." Instead of the personhood amendment, the group stated that attention should be turned to the Montana constitution's liberal privacy clause.
- Bishops from the Great Falls-Billings and Helena diocese stated their concerns about the initiative, stating that they did not agree with the strategy behind it as well. The bishops stated that the measure could have been overturned and add to the pro-Roe v. Wade outcome.
- Beth Cogswell of Planned Parenthood stated, "We know that in countries where abortion is not safe and legal that the death rate from illegal abortions is extremely high and I guess I would say do we want to be that kind of society that punishes women for making a choice?"
Dr. Ann Bukacek, leader of the Montana ProLife Coalition, came under investigation during early November 2009 due to allegations of medical fraud. Bukacek, who was spearheading the campaign effort, came under fire after being accused of unusual billing practices and reimbursing medicaid in return for prayer sessions with patients.
Bukacek countered those accusations by stating an upset former employee was the cause of the investigation. This signaled the fourth investigation since April 2009 that deals with allegedly corrupt billing methods. Bukacek stated that fraud investigators asked "How much time we spend on it, how we decide how to pray, how we pray with non-Christians." The doctor continued in an interview with a local newspaper: "They said they have to follow up every allegation made. I believe these individuals are people doing their job. I find no fault in them. But think about the federal capacity for harassment. Will I continue to get an average of one government investigation a month?"
Path to the ballot
Near the midway point of 2011 state legislative session, the Montana House of Representatives passed the measure with a vote, sending the proposal to the Montana State Senate for a similar vote, according to reports. Section 8 of Article XIV of the Montana Constitution says that an affirmative roll call vote of two-thirds of all members of the Montana Legislature is required to refer an amendment to the ballot.
The Montana House of Representatives passed the measure during the month of March 2011 with a vote of 66-31, sending it to the Montana State Senate, where it failed to make the ballot with a vote of 30-20. This vote did not meet the two-thirds requirement.
Failure for 2010 ballot
Petition circulators had until the June 18, 2010 petition drive deadline to turn in the required 48,673 signatures, since the proposed measure was a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment. However, the measure did not obtain enough signatures.
- World Magazine, "2010 Preview: Ballot initiatives are a way for citizens to settle an issue directly without state legislatures," January 16, 2010
- Montana offers guidance on signature gathering at polling places
- Signature gatherers to bring abortion issue to state's polling places
- Battle of the ballots
- KFBB.com, "Bill to Amend Constitutional Definition of Person," February 14, 2011
- Townnews.com, "Biggest decisions still to come as legislature takes a break," February 22, 2011 (dead link)
- Billings Gazette, "Abortion foes combine constitutional initiatives," July 29, 2009
- Montana Secretary of State, "Proposed 2010 ballot measures"
- Montana's News Station, "Anti-abortion backers push for ballot initiative," May 21, 2009
- RH Reality Check, "Montana 'Egg as Person' Fails to Make Ballot," June 23, 2010
- Life News, "Montana Abortion-Personhood Amendment Fails to Qualify for Ballot Again," July 20, 2010
- Montana's News Station, "Montana AG approves language for abortion restriction initiative," September 4, 2009
- Life Site News, "Montana Personhood Amendment Only 6,000 Signatures Short of Reaching Ballot," July 21, 2010
- One News Now, "If at first you don't succeed...," July 28, 2010
- Great Falls Tribune, "Group pushes for anti-abortion measure," July 2, 2009
- Great Falls Tribune, "Pro-life group holds 'personhood' event," October 16, 2009
- Havre Daily News, "Pro-lifers want amendment, foes vow fight," November 2, 2009
- The Roman Catholic Bishops will not support CI-102, the personhood amendment
- Eagle Forum
- Life News, "Montana Personhood Amendment Backers Trying Again for Abortion Ballot Vote," May 31, 2010
- News Channel 13, "Personhood amendment," June 13, 2010
- Daily Inter Lake, "Investigators descend on doctor," November 8, 2009
- RH Reality Check, "MT Medicaid Fraud Probe Snares "Egg-as-Person" Leader," December 3, 2009
- Choteau Acantha, "Legislature’s focus sharpens as session passes its midpoint," March 1, 2011
- Montana Kaiman, "Legislative roundup: April 12-18," April 19, 2011
- Billings Gazette, "2 initiatives likely qualified for fall ballot; 4 are question marks," June 18, 2010