HELENA — On Sept. 22, 40 Days for Life will begin their fall advocacy for the end of abortion. While new laws have significantly changed access to abortion in Montana, advocates say more needs to be done.
40 Days for Life is an international, Christian advocacy group that seeks to end abortion locally through prayer and fasting, community outreach and an all-day vigil in front of abortion businesses. The organization reports they have more than 1 million members that participate in hundreds of cities across the world.
General Counsel for the organization Matt Britton was the featured speaker at the Helena kick-off this Sunday and told MTN the reason for gathering outside businesses is to show those seeking an abortion that there are other options.
“Not condemning, not judging, but praying and fasting to hope that a mom will choose life for her unborn baby and to offer positive alternatives such as medical care, adoption or a pregnancy center,” said Britton.
Britton and other anti-abortion advocates MTN spoke with at the kick-off event said it’s important to support the woman, not just there at that moment outside the clinic, but also with other assistance they may need even after the child is born.
In 1977, four years after Roe v. Wade, activist Laura Lynn Hughes was 15-years-old in Billings when she found out she was pregnant with her daughter. She was kicked out of her Catholic school because of the pregnancy and is thankful for the support she received from her parents.
Now, Hughes is the author of "Choose Zoe," a volunteer advocate and board member of a pregnancy clinic. She believe it is important to always come from a place of compassion when talking to women.
“There’s many ways to talk about this topic, but it’s that love that we give people, the care we give for them, the compassion we give for them, and no matter what choices they’ve made with their pregnancies, they need help,” said Hughes.
Both national and state politics have significantly changed since the ruling of Roe v Wade.
In 2021, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed several bills affecting abortion: House bills 136, 140, 171 and 229. Not a single Democratic lawmaker voted for any of the bills.
The new laws essentially ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require that any woman considering an abortion must be given the chance to view an ultrasound and hear the fetal heartbeat, severely restricts the distribution of abortion-inducing drugs and prohibits subsidized health-insurance plans on the Affordable Care Act marketplace from covering abortion.
Helena Students for Life President Kaitlyn Ruch told MTN the situation is encouraging after 16 years of similar laws being vetoed under Democrat governors.
“It feels like we’re finally moving forward. We are no longer being tied down by these amazing bills being passed through a legislature and being vetoed year after year” said Ruch. “It was very emotional.”
The new laws affecting abortion in Montana are set to go into effect on October 1, but are currently being challenged by Planned Parenthood who say the laws are an unconstitutional violation of privacy and other individual rights.
On Thursday, Sept. 23, a hearing before a Billings District Court Judge is set to attempt to block the laws from going into effect while the constitutionality lawsuit plays out.
Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court chose not to block a Texas law that effectively banned most abortions in the state while the law is being challenged.
While 40 Days for Life say they do not get involved in politics, even banning political imagery at sponsored events, Britton acknowledges that the political and judicial fights are important and impactful regarding the issue.
However, he notes that judges and elected leaders change. A law today may be overturned down the road.
“Are those other battles not important? Absolutely not and we encourage and pray for them, but the most important battle is when you say to a mother, ‘We love you, we love your baby and God loves you,’ and she says yes,” said Britton. “Because when no woman will seek an abortion, or no doctor will do one, we don’t care what the law says.”
More information about 40 Days for Life events in Helena can be found here.
On Saturday, Oct. 2, activists will be gathering at the Montana State Capitol for “Montana March for Reproductive Rights.” At the event, individuals will march to oppose Montana’s new laws restricting abortion and other policies that have been enacted across the nation.