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HELENA - Opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban abortion by defining a fertilized human egg as a "person" announced Tuesday the measure has failed to gain enough support to qualify for the November ballot.

Constitutional Initiative 100 would have changed the constitution to define a "person" as a fertilized egg and conferred to them all the rights and responsibilities of citizens.

Supporters of the effort needed more than 44,000 signatures from Montana voters to qualify the proposed change for the November ballot. Opponents, led by a group of 25 organizations, said Tuesday that according to their research, proponents only gathered 21,280 signatures.

"We were able to educate Montanans about the real dangers of CI-100 before its extremist supporters crafted a unified message," said Travis McAdam of the Montana Human Rights Network, one of the groups opposing

CI-100.

State Rep. Rick Jore, C-Ronan, led the effort behind CI-100. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

By law, signatures needed to qualify a measure for the ballot are due to county elections office by June 20. They must be received by the Secretary of State's office by mid-July.

CI-100 opponents, which include abortion rights groups human rights organizations and a group of clergy, said they called all county elections offices to confirm that CI-100 had failed to qualify.

They argued that CI-100 would have done more than issue a complete ban on abortion. It also would have banned certain kinds of birth control, such as the IUD, that work by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting on the uterine wall. They said it could have opened up women who suffer miscarriages to investigations and complicated health care for all women of child-bearing age.

Allyson Hagen, of NARAL Pro-Choice Montana, said the measure also had implications for couples who use in vitro fertilization. In that method, eggs are fertilized outside the woman's body and inserted medically into the uterus. Doctors often fertilize several eggs.

If CI-100 passed, Hagen said, what would become of the leftover fertilized eggs? Would couples be compelled to attempt a pregnancy with every one of them? What is the status of a legal "person" that exists frozen in a test tube?

"We don't really know for sure what that would have meant," she said.

Jore sponsored an identical bill in the 2007 Legislature, which died on a mostly party-line vote, with a few Republicans siding with Democrats to kill it.

Montana's Roman Catholic bishops earlier declined to support the measure, saying there were better ways to end abortion.

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