Jonathon Ambarian

HELENA (KPAX) — Advocates gathered at the Montana State Capitol Friday to protest a series of bills restricting abortion access and affecting the LGBTQ community.

The Montana Sexual and Reproductive Health Collective held a rally in the Capitol rotunda. Advocates pointed to more than 20 bills that they said would restrict people’s reproductive health decisions. Martha Fuller, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana, argued much of the testimony had included “misinformation” about abortions and abortion providers.

Stephanie McDowell, executive director of Bridgercare, told MTN she believes many of the bills under consideration are out of step with what Montanans want.

“Montana really showed up this session,” she said. “Montanans are standing up for their values. We believe in our constitution. We do not want our Constitution changed. And we've really seen that expressed over and over again.”

Many of the bills that would tighten regulations on abortion have moved through one or both chambers of the Legislature and appear likely to go to Gov. Greg Gianforte for his signature. Despite that, those in attendance Friday said they believe the debate over these issues is going to continue.

“This is a lifetime fight, and we have to treat it as such,” said Rep. SJ Howell, D-Missoula.

McDowell said there is one bill this session that she’s happy about. House Bill 302, sponsored by Rep. Alice Buckley, D-Bozeman, would require insurers that cover birth control to allow up to a 12-month supply. McDowell said that change could reduce unintended pregnancy by up to a third.

Versions of HB 302 have passed both the House and Senate. The bill has been returned to the House for them to consider whether to accept the Senate’s amendments.