Montana abortion access measure moves one step closer to the November ballot - TAI News
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Voters drop off their ballots for the state’s primary election at the City-County Building in Helena, Mont., on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Thom Bridge/Independent Record via AP)

Hundreds of volunteers in Montana worked together to get a proposed measure to enshrine abortion rights in Montana’s Constitution on the statewide ballot this November. By the time the signatures were counted, the grassroots committee organizing the effort had collected 117,000 signatures — nearly double the number it needed to move the ballot initiative forward. 

Kiersten Iwai is the executive director of Forward Montana, one of the four organizations that make up the citizen-led initiative Montanans Securing Reproductive Rights, along with the ACLU of Montana, the Fairness Project, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana. 

Iwai told the Montana Independent that the group is in a waiting period while officials verify the signatures. Once the signatures are verified, they will be sent to the secretary of state’s office to be double-checked. The office has until Aug. 2 to finish certification and put the measure on the ballot.

Iwai said the group has 500 volunteers ready to begin building momentum for the ballot measure. Once the measure is on the ballot, she said, the group will move to a “vote yes” campaign and volunteers will begin knocking on doors and making phone calls. 

Iwai explained that having the right to abortion enshrined in the state Constitution is a vital safeguard: “We know that these extremist lawmakers are not aligned with [what] the people of our state want and need on abortion rights.” She added that access to abortion in Montana is also important for those in neighboring Idaho, North Dakota, and South Dakota, where abortion is largely banned. 

Gathering the signatures was not an easy task, Iwai said, noting that there was a large vocal group of opponents who intimidated and harassed signature gatherers. 

“You know, when there’s somebody who was filming signature gatherers, or when they’re saying things to either signature gatherers or just to a person who’s walking by, even if you are really excited or you care about this issue, that’s really intimidating and then it’s gonna make you want to sign it less,” Iwai said. “Those were just some of the things that the team experienced, and it was just such a heroic effort to collect the number of signatures that we did, which was 117,000, almost double from every single county, which is pretty incredible, because some of our counties are really, really tiny.”

Iwai said volunteers collected signatures from  Petroleum County, population 496, Judith Basin County, population 2,023, and the town of Culbertson, population 707. 

“I think it’s that just some of those stories of people driving all across the state with a clipboard to connect with people who are like, Hey, I can recruit all of my neighbors. Can I meet you someplace so we can all sign together? I think those stories don’t get told enough, and those are really cool and really special,” Iwai said.

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