May 1, 2015 — Mont. Gov. Steve Bullock (D) this week vetoed a telemedicine abortion ban (HB 587) and an antiabortion-rights measure (SB 349) targeting health insurers, the AP/Belleville News-Democrat reports (Noon, AP/Belleville News-Democrat, 4/30). In addition, Bullock rejected a fetal anesthesia bill (HB 479) (HB 479 status page, 4/30).
Telemedicine Abortion Ban
On Monday, Bullock rejected a measure that would have banned physicians from providing medication abortion via telemedicine (Noon, AP/Belleville News-Democrat, 4/30). The measure, sponsored by state Rep. Keith Regier (R), would have made it a criminal offense for physicians to administer medication abortion without being physically present in the same room as the patient (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/18).
In a letter explaining his veto of the measure, Bullock wrote, "As a safe, effective, and efficient method of delivering health care to underserved regions of Montana, we should be embracing the use of telemedicine, not criminalizing it."
Antiabortion-Rights Health Insurance Bill
On Wednesday, Bullock also vetoed an antiabortion-rights bill aimed at health insurers in the state (AP/Belleville News-Democrat, 4/30). Specifically, the measure would have required insurers that offer a plan with abortion coverage to also offer a plan without abortion coverage (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/13). Bullock explained in a letter that the bill "would create additional administrative burdens and costs for insurance companies, potentially doubling the number of insurance products on the exchange, and ultimately leading to increased costs for consumers." He also expressed concern that the bill could limit necessary coverage for women.
Fetal Anesthesia Bill
Bullock this week also rejected a third antiabortion-rights measure -- HB 479 (HB 479 status page, 4/30). This bill would have required anesthesia to be administered to fetuses before abortions if the woman was at least 20 weeks pregnant, even though there is "little or no evidence" to support this practice (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/22).
Bullock vetoed the bill on the basis that it "attempts to substitute the Legislature's beliefs for the sound medical judgments of Montana's health care professionals and the private medical decisions of their patients" (Veto letter, 4/30).
Bullock Signs Bill Protecting Title X Funding
In related news, Bullock last week signed into law a bill (HB 606) that makes Title X funding statutory, effectively removing such funding from legislative debate, the Great Falls Tribune reports.
According to the Tribune, Title X funding helps support health programs for low-income women, but the state Legislature repeatedly has faced "contentious battles about the money." Under the new law, the state Department of Public Health and Human Services will allocate the funds, rather than the state Legislature.
Bullock said, "A woman's reproductive health shouldn't be subject to political whims of the Montana Legislature. This important law will ensure that women across Montana have access to this most basic of health care, such as mammograms, family planning services and cancer screening without facing a fight in the halls of the capitol building every two years" (Inbody, Great Falls Tribune, 4/24).