The Republican members of Montana's Congressional delegation and the state's governor evangelized to a crowd of more than 300 in the Capitol rotunda Friday afternoon, congratulating each other on recent anti-abortion strides made in Montana and across the country and urging continued support from their base.
While speaking to the crowd, Rep. Matt Rosendale called abortion rights the "plague that was placed upon this country."
In Montana last year, lawmakers passed four laws that limited access to abortion in the state. Three of those are now on hold while a lawsuit against them, filed by Planned Parenthood of Montana, plays out.
The laws on hold would ban abortions after 20 weeks gestational age; require a woman to be informed of the option to view an ultrasound before an abortion; and require informed consent before a drug-induced abortion and block providing the medication through the mail.
There was another law in the challenge, to prohibit health insurance plans sold in the federal exchange in Montana from covering abortion care, but it was not part of Planned Parenthood’s preliminary injunction request.
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Similar legislation had been passed by the state’s GOP-majority Legislature in years past but was vetoed by Democratic governors. In 2020, Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte won election; he campaigned on limiting access to abortion.
"Thank you for standing up for life in your communities," Gianforte said Friday.
Sen. Steve Daines, who was late to the rally due to travel delays, told the crowd the Roe v. Wade decision would likely be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court this summer when it considers Mississippi's ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
"But the second important part of that case of course is it's going to return the power back to the states," Daines said.
While the U.S. Supreme Court weighs the abortion case that carries the potential to overturn its previous landmark decision, Montana’s own state Constitution has been found previously to protect abortion access here.
In a 1999 unanimous opinion, the state Supreme Court found that privacy protections in Montana's Constitution extended to protect those seeking an abortion from government intrusion. While the decision has held for more than two decades, it could be challenged by legislation brought by lawmakers in the coming years.
Daines defended the ban in Mississippi, urging the crowd to look at illustrations of 15-week-old fetuses on the internet.
"Imagine if the NASA scientists were studying Mars lander images and they saw that 15-week-old baby, do you think they would say that is life? Of course they would," he said.
After Texas blocked nearly all abortions in that state with their six-week ban, advocates in Montana said the U.S. Supreme Court allowing that law to take effect could spur those in Montana to try doing the same here.
Planned Parenthood of Montana President and CEO Martha Stahl said last year that she expects legislators who have brought bills seeking to restrict access to abortions to bring more legislation if Texas' law stands.
"If that is the case, I truly believe we will see legislatures around the country passing similar laws and trying to do the same thing in other places," Stahl said in September.
Some GOP lawmakers in Montana have already said they would like to see Roe v. Wade reversed. During the most recent session, Republican Rep. Lola Sheldon-Galloway, of Great Falls, told a committee she felt the federal high court made a mistake nearly 50 years ago.
"This is knowledge that the Supreme Court did not know as they made their decision, Roe v. Wade, on Jan. 22, 1973," Sheldon-Galloway said. "I feel it is time that laws catch up with the science of the 21st century."
Matt Britton, a lawyer for anti-abortion organization 40 Days for Life, also spoke Friday.
Britton told those in attendance he and others with the organization prayed in front of an abortion clinic for so long that God turned the skin of a woman seeking an abortion that day to steel so that it could not be pierced by "the abortionist's needle." He said she converted to Christianity later that day.
Britton said he was confident in the overturning of Roe v. Wade and "its hateful progeny."
"We need to pray that the Supreme Court, 6-3, are on the side of life," he said. "But we know, thanks to President Trump and Amy Coney Barrett, that we have a 5-4 solid majority for life."
Also in attendance of the March for Life were Carroll College student group Students for Life, Helena Area Knights of Columbus, Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen, Helena Fertility Care and Pro-Life Helena, which hosted the event.
Following the oration, attendees conducted a silent prayer walk from the Capitol to the state Supreme Court.
Holly Michels of the Montana State News Bureau contributed to this story.