Some good news, for once: Montana Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, has vetoed a bill that would have outlawed telemedicine abortions in the state. In his veto message, Bullock said the bill was counterproductive for the state: “As elected officials, we should all be working together to expand access to health-care services in Montana. Unfortunately, HB587 and several other bills proposed this session seek to do just the opposite, particularly for women and families living in the more rural part of our state.”
Telemedicine abortions allow patients to get medical counseling from a doctor via a video conference. They can then get medication abortion drugs from a nurse or other licensed healthcare provider. It’s one of the few ways for rural women to access abortions. The Montana Standard reports that the telemedicine ban, was one of eight Republican-sponsored bills vetoed by Bullock.
As RH Reality Check reports, Bullock also recently signed a bill to create a special account for Title X funds, the federal money that helps low-income people pay for family planning services. (Title X money has a way of getting “diverted” in many states, away from paying for family planning and towards God knows what else. In Texas, for example, Title X money was funneled through a complicated tier system that was basically designed to make sure Planned Parenthood couldn’t get any. The feds had to start giving the money directly to the family planning clinics, because Texas couldn’t be trusted to allocate it where it was supposed to go.)
Telemedicine actually isn’t currently used in Montana, but Rep. Keith Regier, the Republan from Kalispell who sponsored the bill, seemed to want to make sure it could never be implemented. The National Women’s Law Center pointed out earlier this month that just 11 percent of Montana counties have an abortion provider, according to the Guttmacher Institute, adding:
Although telemedicine for medication abortion is not currently used in Montana, if the ban were to pass, it would prevent providers from implementing a telemedicine program in the future. This is the opposite of what should be happening. Montana lawmakers should be trying to improve health care access, not make it harder to get care.
Regier also wanted to see the procedure criminalized, according to the bill text. Doctors could have faced jail terms of up to six months for a first offense.
A telemedicine “terminal” in Des Moines, Iowa containing abortion-inducing drugs. Photo via AP