Montana House lawmakers advanced a pro-life constitutional amendment Thursday that would recognize unborn babies as legal persons who deserve basic human rights.
House Bill 337, sponsored by state Rep. Caleb Hinkle, R-Belgrade, passed its first hurdle in the House in a 67-33 vote, Montana Public Radio reports. The amendment also must pass a second vote before it can move to the state Senate.
“I firmly believe that life is the creation of something truly unique, something that individually, on a genetic level, has never happened before in the history of the world,” Hinkle said.
If approved by a two-thirds majority in the state legislature and then by voters on the ballot, the amendment would add language to the Montana Constitution recognizing that life begins at conception and unborn babies are persons who deserve human rights.
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It defines persons “all members of mankind at any stage of development, beginning at the stage of fertilization or conception, regardless of age, health, level of functioning or condition of dependency.”
During a hearing Thursday, state Rep. Sharon Greef, R-Florence, urged lawmakers to vote yes and end the violence of abortion against unborn babies in their state, the AP reports.
“In America, we have a holocaust happening in every state because we are denying that personhood begins at conception,” she said.
But several Democrats criticized the legislation, calling it an infringement on women’s bodily rights.
“[It] would have sweeping restricting consequences on my ability to make decisions about my own body, my health, my safety, my security, my privacy, more so than anything else we’ve seen,” said state Rep. Alice Buckley, D-Bozeman.
The fate of the amendment is less certain in the state Senate because Republicans do not have a two-thirds majority there. To pass, every Republican and at least two Democrats would have to approve the amendment before it could be placed on the ballot for voters’ approval.