Thursday, October 27, 2022

Opinion: Providers Shouldn’t Face Jail Time for Providing Compassionate Care

Montana health care providers shouldn’t face extreme felony penalties when providing compassionate medical care. That’s why our state’s health care leaders ask you to vote no on ballot initiative LR-131.

Montanans will find the initiative LR-131, known as the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, on the back of their ballots, placed there by the 2021 Montana Legislature. As medical experts concerned about misleading information surrounding LR-131, we’d like to make the message clear – the measure poses harm to both families experiencing tragic pregnancy complications and providers.

This ballot initiative would impose “criminal penalties on health care providers who do not act to preserve the life” of “born-alive infants.” It defines “born-alive infants” as those with a heartbeat, breathing, or muscle movements born “at any stage of development” (HB167). It states that measures must be aimed to “preserve the life and health of a born-alive infant.” Penalties for health care providers violating this law are up to $50,000 fine, 20 years in prison, or both.

Tragically, not all infants born will live. Some are born far too early or have complex medical issues that are not compatible with life. LR-131’s government overreach threatens to rob parents and infants of the opportunity to comfort one another, practice the rituals of their faith, and create memories that will sustain them through their grief. If LR-131 passes, physicians may elect to send patients experiencing pregnancy complications out of state where they can receive ethical medical care. Health care practitioners will certainly choose to leave or not come to Montana to practice at a time of critical health worker shortages.

This ballot measure would not impact abortion law in Montana. The membership of the above supporting organizations represents health care experts across Montana with a broad range of views. MMA, MHA and MNA have not taken a position on abortion. What unites us is our opposition to the criminalization of compassionate care of dying infants and government overreach that would rob grieving parents of irreplaceable moments with their infant. These are tragedies, not crimes.

LR-131 would worsen the grief of families facing these tragic circumstances, criminalize compassionate private patient care and offers no new solutions or protections for the care of infants. Montana providers shouldn’t face jail time when providing compassionate medical and health care. That’s why Montana physicians, nurses and health care providers stand united against this ballot measure. Please vote NO on LR-131.


-Montana Medical Association

-Montana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics

- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

-Montana Hospital Association

-Montana Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians

-Montana Nurses Association