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Montana House advances bill that would ban abortions 20 weeks into pregnancy

(Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)Pro-choice protesters demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington March 2, 2016.

The Montana House of Representatives has advanced a bill that would make abortions illegal after 20 weeks into pregnancy.

State Senate Bill 329, also known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, was approved by the House on Wednesday by a vote of 60–40.

The measure seeks to prohibit abortions 20 weeks into the pregnancy, when the unborn are said to be capable of feeling pain, KBZK reported.

Rep. Dennis Lenz (R-Billings), one of the lawmakers who support the measure, said he takes offense when someone says men do not 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, adding that the legislation is important to protect babies' lives.

Rep. Carl Glimm (R-Kila) expressed his belief that the measure fulfills the government's role to protect the vulnerable.

"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," he said.

He noted that 50 percent of the unborn babies would be women, so by nature, the legislation cares about women.

Rep. Virginia Court (D-Billings) described the measure as "ultimate government interference."

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

Rep. Jean Price (D-Great Falls) also expressed concern that the legislation is "too much government."

"You don't want government in your life, but you want government in this very private matter," said Price.

The measure has been scheduled for a final vote on Thursday, but according to LegiScan, the bill was returned to the Senate with amendments.

Abortion is currently legal in Montana up to 24 weeks into pregnancy, or later in cases of medical emergency.

The 20-week abortion ban is currently in place in 16 states, and other states are considering a similar measure this spring.

The Center for Disease Control has reported that there had been at least 5,770 late-term abortions performed at or after 21 weeks of pregnancy in 2013.

A bill that would essentially ban all abortions in Montana recently failed in the Senate. House Bill 595, which would redefine "person" to include all members of the species homo sapiens at any stage of development, failed at the third reading when the Senate voted 30–20. The measure needed a total of 34 "yes" votes to move forward.

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