Three female senators have demanded a public apology from Rep. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, for comments he made comparing women to livestock and property during testimony on a bill that would criminalize offenses involving death to an unborn child.
Senate Majority Leader Carol Williams, Minority whip Kim Gillan, and Sen. Lynda Moss, all Democrats, sent a letter to Republican leaders Tuesday saying that Regier’s comments were “offensive, unacceptable, and embarrassing to our Legislature.”
Regier made the comments several times throughout the session in support of House Bill 167, saying that under Montana law the state recognizes the value of unfinished houses and pregnant cows, but does not recognize the value of unborn babies:
“Ranchers refer to cows as either preg-tested or open,” Regier told the House Judiciary Committee in January. “A preg-tested cow is a cow that has been tested by a veterinarian and confirmed to be pregnant. Open cows are not pregnant. Preg-tested cows bring a higher value than open cows. Why? Because the the calf the cow is carrying has a value even though it isn’t complete yet.
“If unfinished buildings and unborn calves have value in Montana, shouldn’t unborn children have a value? Your support of HB167 will show support to all pregnant women in Montana.”
Regier made the same comments on the House floor in January and again in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
The three Democratic female lawmakers said the comments “disrespect the hard work of our female legislators and constituents,” and they asked Senate President Jim Peterson and House Speaker Mike Milburn to censure Regier under joint House and Senate rules.
“We do not place price tags on women in the same way that we do on cattle—and a woman’s worth is not valued based on whether or not she is pregnant,” the female lawmakers wrote. “Today is the 100th Annual International Women’s Day. Women in Montana make up a majority of our constituents and play an important role in our state. Representatives Regier’s remarks have gone too far.”
The letter also requests that GOP leaders direct Regier to “apologize to the Senate, House, and the women of Montana.
“Representative Regier’s analogy was offensive, an insult to all female legislators, to all women in Montana, and to the decorum of our body,” they wrote.
UPDATE: Chris Shipp, spokesman for the House Republicans, issued the following statement in an e-mail late Tuesday:
“Unfortunately Senate Democrats are more concerned with slinging mud and misrepresenting the statements of fellow legislators. Republicans remain focused on creating opportunities for more jobs in Montana and passing common-sense legislation such as HB 167. This leaves us little time to get in a war of words.
Next thing you know, Senate Democrats are going to issue a statement condemning our state's greatest female legislator, Republican Jeanette Rankin, for saying ‘Women remind me of the cows on our ranch in Montana. A cow has a calf and after a while a man comes along and takes the calf away.’”