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Montana GOP US Rep. Zinke votes to restrict abortion after saying states should decide

The Montana Republican said last year that abortion policies should be decided by state legislatures.

By Emily Singer - October 02, 2023
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Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) speaks to media after House votes with Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans, at the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, September 26, 2023.
Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) speaks to media after House votes with Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans, at the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, September 26, 2023. (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) voted on Thursday to restrict access to abortion medication nationwide, a move that contradicts his past assertion that abortion policy should be determined by the states.

In 2022, Zinke told the Montana Independent Record that abortion is “a Montana decision” and that he supported Montana’s law that bans abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation.

However, Zinke is one of 191 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives who voted to make it harder to access the abortion drug mifepristone. A provision of a federal funding bill would reverse a 2021 Food and Drug Administration rule that allows those seeking abortions to receive the drug mifepristone by mail after a telemedicine appointment. Mifepristone is used as part of a two-drug regimen for self-managed abortions.

Zinke’s vote on Thursday would create nationwide abortion restrictions, forcing those seeking medication abortions to get mifepristone in person, adding another layer of difficulty to abortion care access even in states where it remains legal.

It’s not the first time Zinke has contradicted his position that abortion should be a state issue.

In June, Zinke signed on as a co-sponsor of H.R. 7, a bill that would prohibit qualified health care plans sold through the Affordable Care Act marketplace from covering abortion. Currently, qualified health care plans can cover abortions, but no federal subsidies to help Americans purchase those plans can go to abortion coverage.

Abortion politics have upended elections in the United States since the Supreme Court in June 2022 overturned its landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade, paving the way for state legislatures to ban abortion before fetal viability. Republican-controlled states have passed a number of abortion bans since the ruling. In some states the procedure is now banned in almost all instances, while in others it is only allowed very early in pregnancy, which amounts to a functional ban.

In 2022, Democrats were able to stave off the typical midterm election losses usually suffered by a first-term president’s party by running against Republicans’ extreme abortion bans.

In Montana, abortion currently remains legal until fetal viability, which is usually considered to be around 24 weeks’ gestation.

A Pew Research Center poll on abortion in all 50 states found that a majority of Montanans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Just 38% of Montanans support making abortion illegal in all or most cases.

Zinke is running for reelection in Montana’s 1st District.

Zinke won the seat in 2022 by just 3 points against Democrat Monica Tranel, even though former President Donald Trump had carried it by 7 points in 2020. And Democrats are once again targeting Zinke in 2024, with Tranel seeking a rematch. 

Inside Elections, the nonpartisan political analysis outlet, rates the race a “Lean Republican” contest.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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