Montana voters will decide this year whether to allow abortion. Voters are being asked to approve a law stating that an embryo or fetus is a legal person with a right to medical care if they survive an abortion.

The Born Alive Infant Protection Act would require doctors to give care to infants born at any stage of development or face penalties.

Nineteen states have laws on the books that were put there by the legislature. Montana would be the first state to have a legislative referendum.

Sally Mauk, a political analyst who has reported on the issue, says a lot of people think it was put on the ballot to get people to vote for it.

The law was put on the ballot before the Supreme Court ended federal protection for abortion.

Mauk thinks that the opposite effect could have been created by the decision to overturn the Dobbs decision. People who are in favor of legal abortion will see the issue on the ballot and vote against the Republicans.

Impacts on families suffering pregnancy complications

Proponents of the act say it's necessary to protect innocent lives.

Opponents say it gives the state too much power to decide what's medically reasonable, which could lead to harm to families who suffer pregnancy related problems.

Maesyn was born in January of 2021. Doctors didn't think they could fix her condition.

Marcus and I were given the option of taking Maesyn outside for her last moments. Being ex-wildland firefighters, we had no hesitation in taking that chance.

Bossler spoke out against the proposed law at an event in Montana.

The death of Maesyn would have been traumatic for everyone. Repeated chest compressions and Epi shots would have done nothing to help her.

The Born Alive Infant Protection Act would require medical providers to give life-saving care to infants born at any stage of development.

Medical professionals who fail to take medically appropriate and reasonable actions could be fined up to $50,000 and imprisoned for 20 years if the referendum passes.

Infanticide is protected by Montana law. The law states that people can face penalties if they cause the death of a premature baby.

In 2002 a federal law gave babies the same rights as adults, but did not include penalties. There are laws on the ballot in Montana that require physicians to provide care or face criminal penalties.

Montana's born alive referendum was introduced by a Republican state lawmaker.

The intent is to save innocent lives.

"It's a simple bill of are we going to protect infants that are born alive for any reason, not just a bungled abortion, but any infant that's born alive," he said. Do they deserve the same medical services that you and I get?

Data on "botched abortions"

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 1% of abortions in the US occur after 21 weeks.

Fetal anomalies or maternal problems were the most common cause of infant deaths after an abortion, according to data from the CDC. Almost all survived less than 24 hours.

The premise of LR-131 is not based on how health care is provided according to Dr. Tim Mitchell. The bill will affect families who are suffering from pregnancy problems.

In the setting of a rapid, pre-viable preterm birth or in the setting of lethal fetal anomalies, Mitchell says that interventions are not going to have a change in the outcome.

Mitchell spoke at a Compassion for Montana Families event last month. If the referendum passes, physicians will be forced to make decisions out of fear of prison time and fines rather than following the families wishes for how they want to spend final moments with their baby.

Doctors will be forced to try to place a breathing tube in a baby whose lungs have not yet developed or is so small that the tube cannot fit.

The referendum would require doctors to take a dying baby from its family and try to save it. He points out that the language on the ballot states that a healthcare provider should take appropriate and reasonable actions to preserve the life and health of a born alive infant.

He says that trying to revive a dying baby is not medically reasonable. That seems simple.

The way the bill is written leaves a lot of gray area.

Who will decide what reasonable care is? Is the state attorney general going to look into cases, because anyone can file a complaint against a physician or provider who is involved in care of some of these very tragic circumstances?

Absentee ballots have already been mailed and the deadline to vote is in November.