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'We Defend Life': Montana and Oklahoma Governors Sign Pro-Life Bills into Law

Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signs a bill Monday, April 26, 2021 that bans abortions after 20 weeks gestational age as bill sponsor Rep. Lola Sheldon-Galloway, R-Great Falls, looks on. (Thom Bridge/Independent Record via AP)

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed three bills on Monday restricting abortion access in the state, celebrating it as a success after several attempts to pass similar measures in previous years were vetoed by former Democratic governors.

The bills ban abortion after 20 weeks of gestation, require health care providers to give pregnant women the opportunity to view an ultrasound before performing an abortion and place several restrictions on abortion drugs, like requiring that they be administered in-person rather than through telemedicine.

Gianforte signed the measures in the presence of a jubilant crowd of Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion activists.

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"It's a promising day, a day that will go down in our state's history as we defend life," Gianforte said.

He also tweeted about the new legislation, writing: "Life is precious and ought to be protected. Today, I proudly signed into law bills to protect the life of our most vulnerable, the unborn."

The new laws mark a shift in the state's approach to abortion regulation after 16 years of Democratic governors who vetoed past attempts by the Republican-controlled Legislature to limit access to the procedure. 

Montana joins several other GOP-led states in passing additional restrictions on abortion access this year.

Republican lawmakers have said the bills will protect the health and safety of women seeking abortion and protect preborn babies who are capable of feeling pain. Opponents have said the bills will unconstitutionally violate women's access to abortion and interfere with the relationship between women and abortionists.

"We have waited 48 years to see our governor in Montana sign this bill," said Rep. Lola Sheldon-Galloway, the Republican who sponsored the measure to ban abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. She said the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision — establishing a nationwide right to abortion in 1973 — was misguided.

Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt also signed three pro-life bills into law, including ones to criminalize the procedure in certain cases and cost providers their medical licenses for performing them.

The Republican-controlled state Senate passed measures requiring physicians who perform abortions to be certified in obstetrics and gynecology, adding abortion to the list of unprofessional conduct by doctors, and prohibiting abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

In the case of the fetal heartbeat bill, any doctor who performs an abortion after detecting a heartbeat would be guilty of homicide.

A baby's distinct heartbeat can be detected using vaginal ultrasounds as early as 6 weeks before many women know they are pregnant. Less-invasive abdominal ultrasounds can detect a heartbeat a few weeks later.

Several other pro-life bills are still awaiting the governor's signature, including a "trigger bill" that would immediately outlaw abortion in Oklahoma if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion. At least 10 states have similar laws, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

Stitt, a Republican in his first term, reiterated Monday his campaign promise to sign any anti-abortion measure that the Legislature sends to him.

"We want to be the most pro-life state in the country, and I want to be the most pro-life governor," Stitt said.

Oklahoma is one of several states where GOP gains are lending more momentum to pro-life progress.

Have you have had an abortion, are contemplating ending your pregnancy, or would like pregnancy-related resources, please click here.

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