Yesterday in Butte, former Governor Schweitzer asked a question that has stuck with me. He asked a group of supporters at an event with Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards if they believed that Jeanette Rankin “would let a bunch of old white men tell her what to do with her life?”
The answer, of course, is hell no.
Despite the threat to women’s reproductive rights across the country, Montanans have a Democratic candidate for the Senate whose anti-choice record rivals the radicals of the Republican Party. There simply is no other candidate who better fits Schweitzer’s description of an old man who wants to control women’s bodies than John Bohlinger.
I’ve detailed his anti-choice record here a number of times. In response, the Bohlinger campaign offered a half-hearted defense of reproductive freedom that I’ll let you judge for yourself. Hardly a stirring defense of abortion rights, is it? I’ve defended an episode of The Wire with a lot more passion and detail than Bohlinger was able to muster when it came to defending the fundamental privacy rights held by women.
It’s simply insufficient for a Democratic US Senate candidate to wave his hand about and vaguely assert his pro-choice credentials, expecting us to believe that his positions have changed. A candidate who voted for the most stringent restrictions on abortion rights possible, including a constitutional amendment that would have gutted abortion rights needs to do more than claim to be pro-choice now when it is politically expedient.
Bohlinger needs to publicly repudiate those specific votes—and explain why, other than for political calculations, he has changed his position now. The stakes are simply too high, as Cecile Richards reminds us, to take him at his word.
And it’s not just Bohlinger, of course. Other Republicans in Montana seem to have been told by a strategist that calling for increased privacy is a winner with Montana voters. You’ve got Matt Rosendale’s self-funded ego quest centered on claims that he will protect privacy rights, and following a training session, a group of 6-9 young Republican activists have been claiming that they will protect privacy rights by battling the NSA—in the Montana Legislature.
What they seem unwilling to recognize is that they are working in opposition to a battle for privacy that has been ongoing for generations in Montana. Asserting that the right to cell phone data privacy trumps a woman’s right to access health care of her choice reflects a profoundly privileged, and even ignorant, position. Their party platform calls for ending reproductive privacy–and no calls to protect my data can erase that.
It seems especially timely to remind people like John Bohlinger and the young Republicans that the Montana Supreme Court has even more forcefully asserted that the right to privacy than the US Supreme Court. In a decision involving reproductive rights champion Susan Cahill, way back in 1999, the Court, citing Locke and Mill, asserted that privacy rights unquestionably protect abortion rights:
We hold that the core constitutional right infringed by the legislation at issue in the case at bar is the fundamental right of individual privacy guaranteed to every person under Article II, Section 10 of the Montana Constitution. We hold that the personal autonomy component of this right broadly guarantees each individual the right to make medical judgments affecting her or his bodily integrity and health in partnership with a chosen health care provider free from the interference of the government, except in very limited circumstances not at issue here. More narrowly, we hold that Article II, Section 10, protects a woman’s right of procreative autonomy-here, the right to seek and to obtain a specific lawful medical procedure, a pre-viability abortion, from a health care provider of her choice.
It seems that both John Bohlinger and the young Republicans should do some reading about privacy protections in our state, because no group of men, old or young, is going to take away access for Montana women.