While Cascade County residents are watching in horror the complete trainwreck of elections under newly elected Clerk and Recorder Sandra Merchant, how are things going in the Montana Legislature?
First the good news.
Ha! I kid, there is no good news. We elected clowns so now we get clownery.
Ok, fine I take that back. There is some good news. A big thank you to the people speaking up and testifying against hateful legislation. Democrats and members of the public are still pointing out illegal and thoughtless aspects of these bills. I’m thankful that people are trying to defend Montana’s citizens from our extremist Republicans legislators.
The latest stupidity from our Great Falls Legislators
The good news is that thanks to the efforts of passionate testimony, we have managed to reject some ultra stupid bills by Great Falls legislators. Like SB 235 by Senator Daniel Emrich — an effort to ban teachers from teaching scientific theory and SB 497 by Senator Steve Fitzpatrick — an effort to destroy stream access for Montana anglers. Buh-bye bad bills.
Well. I’m sorry. It continues to be very bad. Shocking no one, Republicans continue to attack abortion rights, LGBTQ rights and pass bills to benefit the uber rich.
I can’t list all of the bad bills here, so I’ll just mention some of the worst and point out where our Great Falls delegation is failing us.
Great Falls Representative Lola Sheldon Galloway, our local delegation’s best handmaiden to the patriarchy, has two disgusting bills to highlight. The bills both passed out of committee based solely on Republican votes. HB 937 forces more onerous licenses for providers and facilities that perform abortions. HB 786 adds more burdens on abortion medication providers. The goal of this legislation is not to protect people with uteruses or keep us safer. (Despite the gibberish Lola likes to spout.) The real goal is to dissuade patients and medical providers from providing necessary healthcare. Wow Lola, why do you hate people with uteruses so much?
More Stupidity on Healthcare
Senator Daniel Emrich, R-Great Falls continues to fight established medical knowledge and try to stop immunization requirements with his SB 450. SB 450 has now passed from the Montana Senate to the Montana House. Before widespread vaccination, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year. But who cares if your child catches a preventable and potentially fatal disease? Isn’t it better to be them to be immunization-free and dead?
Even though our Great Falls delegation aren’t the primary sponsors on several hateful anti-LGBTQ+ bills, they sure are fine voting for them.
But why listen to an expert when you can listen to your bigoted impulses, right Montana Republicans? It has passed though the legislature and these Great Falls legislators voted for it:
Thank you to Senator Wendy McKamey for voting no on SB 99. Senator McKamey was the ONLY Great Falls legislator that didn’t vote to pass this hate.
Knowing the homophobia of our governor, SB 99 will be signed into law and then the taxpayers get to pay for the lawsuits. Meanwhile trans youth are treated as punching bags.
Where does that leave us?
I wish I could end on a lighter note, but our Great Falls delegation and other Montana Republicans continues to let down Montana’s citizens. Keep speaking up and let them know we are watching and disagree with their hateful attacks on our rights. You can send a message to a legislator using this form: https://leg.mt.gov/web-messaging/ or give them a call, they love it. The general switchboard is (406) 444-4800 and your message will be delivered to a legislator
HB303, presented by its proponents as a bill to provide protections to medical practitioners, healthcare institutions, and healthcare payers based on their conscience, presents a real and imminent danger to the health and wellbeing of Montanans. This bill doesn’t just provide for all of these entities to refuse to participate in certain crucial aspects of medical care (with its primary focus being abortion). It also requires that those who are willing to provide these services provide affirmative consent, in writing, prior to being requested or assigned to participate in these services in any way.
This bill is dangerous on many levels. First, and perhaps most obviously, it limits the care available to Montanans. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology describes abortion as “an essential component of comprehensive, evidence-based health care.” This bill represents another step to limit access to this critical aspect of healthcare. Abortion is healthcare and should be treated as any other aspect of healthcare would be. Allowing healthcare entities to refuse to provide this service has serious, and potentially fatal, consequences.
In a case cited by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which, under the Trump administration, passed a rule similar to the one currently being considered, abortion services were denied to a patient carrying a nonviable pregnancy. The patient, Tamesha Means, presented to the only hospital within 30 minutes of her – a Catholic hospital. She was 18 weeks pregnant and went into early labor. She was not advised that her pregnancy was likely nonviable, nor was she offered the (medically appropriate) treatment option of terminating her pregnancy. Instead, she was discharged home with pain medication and told to keep her scheduled followup appointment the next week. She returned to the hospital the following morning with a fever and severe pain. Despite her treating physician’s suspicion that she had a severe infection which could result in her infertility or death, she was again discharged home. She returned to the same hospital for the third time that night with severe, painful contractions, and as the hospital was preparing to discharge her home for the third time, she delivered a baby that lived only for a few short hours. Several years later, she sued the Conference of Catholic Bishops, something that the HHS described as an attempt to coerce organizations into performing abortions against their will.
As a healthcare worker with a lifetime of experience providing care to patients facing emergent and acute illnesses, I can say with confidence that the care she received was substandard by any definition. A patient presented with a severe, life-threatening emergent medical problem – a problem which has a clear and appropriate course of treatment: termination of the pregnancy. However, the organization and its employees, based on religious beliefs, failed to provide her with appropriate care. They endangered her life and wellbeing. HB 303 would allow organizations and healthcare providers in Montana to not only refuse to provide this type of medically appropriate care, it would also allow them to refuse to refer the patient to other sources for this care. In a state with already limited resources, this further narrows the options that patients are given to receive the most appropriate care.
The Lancet, among the oldest and most respected journals in the medical community, put it best when they said, “The Justices who vote to strike down Roe will not succeed in ending abortion, they will only succeed in ending safe abortion. Alito and his supporters will have women’s blood on their hands.” HB303 represents yet another insidious attempt to rob women of reproductive rights and access to safe, evidence-based, medically appropriate healthcare.
Dr. Kate Eby is a dually certified Family and Adult Geriatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. She received her masters degree from MSU-Bozeman and completed her doctorate and post-doctoral studies at the University of Colorado. She has practiced in a variety of acute care and inpatient settings. She is also a Certified Nurse Educator through the National League for Nursing, and teaches at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
The world is full of good and brave people. If we’re lucky, we get to call these people friends. So I was delighted to see my friend and former Great Falls resident, Laura Wight, featured in The Washington Post this week.
Wight and her family lived in Great Falls for 11 years. In her time here, Laura was a steadfast figure in the volunteer world. She served as Vice President of the Great Falls LGBTQ+ Center, was an avid supporter of Planned Parenthood, and worked as the head librarian at Great Falls College MSU. Then life happened, as it is always wont to do, and a new career opportunity brought the Wights to New Mexico. But moving to a Blue state was not the end of Laura’s activism work. Rather, the undoing of Roe and an ultra conservative city commission has Wight treading that well-known protest line, this time in a much warmer clime.
Despite abortion being legal in New Mexico, the city of Clovis has been besieged by extremist right-wing pastors who have pushed an illegal abortion ban. One such extremist, Mark Lee Dickson has been making the rounds in Montana as well. Dickson (emphasis on DICK) has popped up in rural Montana towns, including Manhattan, Sheridan, and Whitehall , attempting to create “sanctuary cities for the unborn.” It’s not lost on us that these same idealogues are adamantly opposed to providing sanctuary for the already born.
When Hurricane Dickson arrived in Clovis, Laura Wight was ready. Calling on her decades of organizing experience, Wight responded quickly, creating Eastern New Mexico Rising. Now Wight is leading legal efforts to sue the city, and gathering signatures to bring the issue to the voters. Laura’s story highlights what organizers know all too well- The fight is not just here in Montana. The fight is everywhere. Lucky for New Mexico, they’ve gained one hell of a fighter.
In a press release straight out of the Capitol City, the three ring circus known as the Montana Freedom Caucus announced that Great Falls representative, Steven Galloway, has joined their fourteen member cast of clowns. In the press release issued by the circus, Clown Queen Theresa Manzella, Republican Senator from the Bitterroot Valley, regurgitated the punchlines of many on the far right, “We stand for states’ rights and work to rein in federal overreach. Montana citizens have made it clear that this is their desire.” So much for originality.
Our readers may remember when Manzella brought her roadshow to Great Falls at the invitation of the local Pachyderm Club. Her act that time around was joining the jokers on the far right poking fun at local elections by trying to fool people into thinking that elections in Montana are corrupt. (Check out our story https://wtf406.com/2022/09/the-big-lie-in-cascade-county/ )
The Montana Freedom Caucus is a wholly owned subsidiary of the national circus franchise, the Congressional Freedom Caucus in Washington DC. Montana Representative Matt Rosendale is an active clown in the national group, having developed a character who dresses like a Montana cowboy, but speaks with a thick Maryland accent. Most recently the national group dominated the media by catching Representative Kevin McCarthy, demanding he obey them and repeatedly hitting him with pies in the face until he agreed to their demands. As part of their routine, Rosendale took to the House floor and delivered an unintelligible speech criticizing . . .well it was hard to tell what he was criticizing. The media covered his speech with the headline, “Rosendale rages against a non-problem in viral speech, say political analysts” (https://billingsgazette.com/news/rosendale-rages-against-a-non-problem-in-viral-speech-say-political-analysts/article_4bec7336-8e32-11ed-8b60-67f4e4525fdc.html )
Rosendale is clearly trying to get his pies in order to throw them in the face of Senator Jon Tester in the 2024 election. But first he’ll have to beat fellow clown Ryan Zinke who has his own routine imitating a Montana cowboy. In the Montana circus press release, Rosendale said, “I’m proud to work with veteran and newly-elected lawmakers to ensure every Montanan has a voice in our representative government.” What he didn’t say, but we all know it’s what he means is, “These are the clowns that are going to help me beat Zinke”
It is not clear what role Steve Galloway will play in this troop of clowns. It is clear he is not likely to emerge as a leader. His wife Lola, who is also in the legislature, is far more likely to end up in a leadership role. She has already developed a comic character with flashy hats pushing a baby carriage with a doll in it.
Time will tell. The group plans to have a show in Helena in January. Grab your popcorn and get a seat. It’s bound to be entertaining!
Repugnant Homophobe and Representative for HD3, Braxton Mitchell, has introduced yet another BIg Government bill. You may remember Mitchell as the Rep who introduced an anti-drag bill just days after the Club Q shooting. Mitchell’s bigotry is not limited to the LGBTQ+ community. He’s coming after women’s rights as well.
Mitchell isn’t trying to close a legal loophole or help grieving parents. That’s not his style. Like Mitchell’s other bills, he seeks to insert the government into our personal lives. Mitchell’s bill will create a record of every miscarriage and abortion in the state of Montana. There is absolutely no reason our government needs this private medical information. Surely Mitchell doesn’t understand that many women experience miscarriage at home, and there’s no physician involved. Apparently Mitchell is expecting people to fish their dead fetus out of the toilet and take it to a doctor to be declared dead. There is NO benefit whatsoever in requiring this kind of measure.
So what purpose does HB 213 really serve? Criminalizing pregnancy.
Bills like this are a step down the path to criminalizing our uteruses. This measure clearly seeks to discourage reproductive freedom and shame anyone who chooses to abort, with the potential of bringing criminal charges against them should the law change. (And we already know they want to criminalize abortion.) Further, when abortion is illegal, the next step will be investigating miscarriages as a crime.
Republicans love to oversimplify pregnancy and biology in general. They pretend that you can’t get pregnant from rape (Looking at you, Lola Sheldon Galloway). They act as if contraception never fails. They advocate for the fetus but abandon the child once it takes its first breath.
Montanans believe in medical privacy.We don’t need our Representatives prying into our personal lives, and we certainly don’t need them keeping tabs on our uteruses.
On January 2, 2023, the 68th legislative session made its debut swearing in the newest batch of Montana legislators. This also marked the first time that one party formed a supermajority since Montana’s constitution was adopted 50 years ago. Speaking of which, this Republican supermajority is champing at the bit to introduce a slew of amendments to the constitution. They’ve proposed 54 such amendments already. Some of the topics they want to legislate on are: the way elections are handled, the way judges are selected, redistricting rules (read: gerrymandering) amendments defining gender, banning abortions, and enshrining school choice and a parental bill of rights.Their plans are clear. They want Big Government to control Montanan’s personal lives and public institutions. Confusingly, Sen Steve Fitzpatrick has proposed a constitutional amendment on proposing constitutional amendments. If Republicans have their way, Montana’s constitution will be unrecognizable before the session is through.
Concerned about Republican’s extremist agenda, a group of activists from Great Falls organized an event – Occupy MT Leg. We were joined by concerned citizens from around the state. Why occupy space on the first day of the session? To let these legislators know that we will hold them accountable for everything they do during this session. Our sizeable group from Great Falls, Helena, Belgrade, Conrad, and more, first gathered in the rotunda to protest Superintendent of Public School’s Elsie Artnzen, who had brought in a slate of far-right speakers (an abuse of the office) to mount yet another unfounded attack on our public school teachers and administrators. Artnzen’s “event” was small, disorganized, and met with Boo’s from protestors in the crowd.
We then moved to the Old Supreme Court Chamber, where the public reception was to be held for the newly-sworn lawmakers. Cakes were there, ready to be served, doubtless alongside much back-slapping and self-congratulations. We had aimed to speak with our legislators and make sure they know what we expect of them, but it turns out that they didn’t want to face the public. Not to be deterred, we gathered around the balcony of the rotunda, displayed our signs, and filled the space. We are here, and we will not be ignored.
Finally, following the swearing-in, we marched around the capitol building. The group was comprised of people from different generations, different parts of Montana, with different advocacy issues. But we experienced a solidarity that we believe we share with a large portion of Montanans. Far-right extremism is not representative of most of us, and this “super majority” does not represent us. They are not some aristocracy, and we are not some peasantry. We can and will raise our voice when they eat their cake and throw us the crumbs. We’ll be keeping a close eye on their votes, and the bills they sponsor. With this supermajority, they feel emboldened to show their true colors. And we are committed to rejecting fascist ideology wherever we see it.