Montana voters rejected a measure that would have required medical workers to provide care to infants born prematurely or in rare instances of surviving an attempted abortion or face penalties, according to a call by the Associated Press. Critics say that infanticide is already illegal and the proposed amendment was unnecessary.
If LR-131, a legislative referendum for the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, had passed, medical professionals who did not "take medically appropriate and reasonable actions" could have faced punishments of up to $50,000 in fines and up to 20 years in prison.
The measure declared that an embryo or fetus is a legal person with a right to medical care if born prematurely or survives an attempted abortion, among other birth scenarios.
Members of the medical community opposed the amendment saying it represents government overreach in decisions made between a patient and provider. They say in instances where a baby is born early or with fetal anomalies, doctors will be forced to perform painful and unnecessary procedures that will keep the family from spending the final moments with their infant.
Republican proponents of the initiative said it was morally necessary to protect babies that survive an attempted abortion even though instances of this occurring are rare.
In 2002 a federal law granted infants born alive the same rights as persons but did not mandate care or include penalties. Eighteen states have passed similar laws.
Abortion continues to be legal in Montana. The state's constitution protects it under its right to privacy.
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