A ballot initiative from ultra-conservative Ronan legislator Rick Jore’s Montana Constitution Party which would define human embryos as “persons” and grant them a fundamental right to life, received preliminary approval from the Montana Attorney General’s office Dec. 20, a critical step on its way to the November ballot.
If voters pass the initiative, Section 1, Article II, section 3 of the Montana State Constitution would read, “Every person has a paramount and fundamental right to life… All persons are created free and have certain inalienable rights from the moment of
Jore insists the amendment has nothing to do with abortion. But when he explains the measure’s purpose as “finally deciding once and for all when life begins,” it’s impossible to miss the point.
Jore and a group of supporters he refuses to identify have until June 20 to get 44,615 signatures from 40 different legislative districts to place the measure on the statewide November ballot.
“[Supporters of the amendment] are going to create a debate in Montana. We’re not skirting around the issue here,” he says. “We are going to the people directly to ask the question: Are we dealing with human life or not?”
Jore believes the amendment would end all abortions in Montana, even those stemming from incest or rape. Critics of the initiative say it could do that, and much more.
“It’s not clear what [implementing this amendment] would do for birth control, and in vitro fertilization. It’s just not clear,” says Allyson Hagen, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Montana. The language in the amendment about conception would, in essence, give rights to fertilized eggs, meaning moving the ovum could constitute a rights violation. Hagen also believes the language leaves a door open for investigations into miscarriages.
Other groups opposing the amendment include the American Civil Liberties Union Of Montana and the Montana Human Rights Network.
Jore says the amendment’s possible failure won’t deter him from fighting.
“We need to clarify that the [State] Constitution is talking about human beings at all stages of life, including conception,” he says.