Governor Vetoes Measure That Stirred Abortion Debate

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed a measure Friday that had stirred debate over abortion during the legislative session by proposing to make it illegal to kill an unborn child except in cases of medical procedures.

House Bill 167 brought opposition from backers of legal abortion, and support from those who want to eventually make the procedure illegal.

Republican supporters argued safeguards in the bill protect a woman from being charged in some way for the death of her own unborn child and say it has nothing to do with abortion. Democrats opposed to the measure in the session argued it would be far better to enhance criminal penalties against pregnant women rather than argue around the edges of the abortion debate.

“I have issued this veto because I believe its primary purpose and focus is to serve a political agenda, not to protect pregnant women from violence or punish the acts of offenders,” the governor wrote in his veto measure. “I also am concerned that prosecution of crimes under HB 167 could invade the privacy of a pregnant woman, who has already been traumatized by the violence against her, by exposing her medical records and other private information in a criminal court proceeding, including to the perpetrator of the crime.”

Republicans don’t have enough votes in the Legislature to override a veto.

Schweitzer is working his way through dozens of bills lawmakers sent him as they adjourned last week. He vetoed and signed several others on Friday, including a small piece of the budget package that would have transferred relatively small amounts of money from special accounts such as search and rescue and recreational safety into the state’s general fund.

Schweitzer poked at Republicans who harshly criticized the fund transfers he proposed in December before launching many of their own across several bills, which the governor called “rich” irony. The governor argued the $150,000 a year in House Bill 375 is not needed to balance the state’s books.

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