The state of Montana is facing a setback in its attempt to enforce a newly created ban an abortion procedure used in the state after 15 weeks’ gestational age. District Court Judge Mike Menahan issued an order preventing the ban from taking effect, stating that Planned Parenthood of Montana has demonstrated “immediate and irreparable harm” resulting from the law’s immediate effective date. The law, known as House Bill 721, was signed by Republican Governor Greg Gianforte and would have prohibited the dilation and evacuation or curettage procedure commonly referred to as dismemberment abortions.
Prior to becoming a judge, Menahan served two terms as a Democrat in the Montana Legislature. During his time in the legislature, Menahan received a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood.
Judge Menahan’s ruling emphasized that plaintiffs and their patients would face immediate and irreparable harm, while the defendants would not be significantly affected by the issuance of a temporary restraining order. He highlighted the importance of preserving the status quo and ensuring access to constitutionally protected healthcare services pending the adjudication of a preliminary injunction. A hearing in the case is scheduled for May 23.
Under the 1999 Armstrong decision by the Montana Supreme Court, abortion is legal in the state. The decision established that the right to privacy guaranteed by the Montana Constitution encompasses a person’s right to a pre-viability abortion from a qualified healthcare provider of their choice. Even after the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe decision, Montana’s stronger right to privacy in its state document still allows for legal abortions.
Planned Parenthood of Montana expressed satisfaction with the court order, reaffirming its commitment to challenging unconstitutional laws enacted by the Legislature and the governor. The organization condemned the intrusion of politics into the medical realm and vowed to protect access to abortion and personal freedom.
Governor Gianforte’s office, on the other hand, voiced strong support for the stalled law, describing the targeted procedure as barbaric, dangerous, and demeaning to the medical profession. The Attorney General’s Office has also filed a response, expressing concerns about the procedure and urging the court to overturn the Armstrong decision. However, the Montana Supreme Court recently upheld the Armstrong decision in a separate case.
In addition to the ban on the dilation and evacuation procedure after 15 weeks, the Montana Legislature passed several other abortion-related laws, some of which are also temporarily blocked by the court. These include a ban on abortions after 24 weeks’ gestational age and restrictions on Medicaid coverage for abortions. The state Department of Public Health and Human Services’ administrative rule, mirroring the Medicaid coverage ban, is also under a temporary block. Other laws increase licensure requirements for clinics providing abortion care and grant healthcare providers the ability to refuse care based on moral objections. Governor Gianforte also signed a “born alive” act, which opponents argue duplicates existing laws protecting infants from harm or killing.
BY: Big Sky Headlines Staff