By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA - The Montana House gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that would make it illegal for physicians to perform abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Senate Bill 329 provides an exception for medical emergencies that threaten the life of the mother. The House passed the bill on a 60-40 vote, and will hold a final vote Thursday.

Rep. Dennis Lenz, R-Billings, supported the bill and said he takes great offense when someone says men don’t understand abortion.

“As someone who was born to an unwed mother - 11 years before Roe v. Wade - I know where I would be,” Lenz said.

Lenz said this piece of legislation is important to protect the lives of babies. Rep. Carl Glimm, R-Kila, said this is exactly why government is in place.

“I think that government is here to take care of those who are the most vulnerable, and I think that these babies are just that,” Glimm said.

Glimm said that he could contend that 50 percent of those babies would be women, and so, by nature, the legislation cares about women.

Rep. Virginia Court, D-Billings, opposed the bill and said it is the ultimate government interference.

“What happens when your daughter comes home and she has been date raped?” Court said. “What do you do? Do you say, ‘Oh, fine. You can carry this child.’”

Court said the bill puts politicians in examination rooms with a mother considering abortion.

Rep. Jean Price, D-Great Falls, agreed with Court and said this piece of legislation is “too much government.”

“You don’t want government in your life, but you want government in this very private matter,” Price said.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.