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Montana abortion rights are covered by state law, not SCOTUS

Montana abortion rights governed by state law, not SCOTUS
Posted at 6:42 PM, May 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-24 10:52:03-04

(MAY 3, 2022) If the U.S. Supreme Court removes federal protections for abortion it would remain legal in Montana under the state constitution.

A leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion showed the court’s intention to overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. The draft, leaked to Politico, “does not represent a decision by the court or the final position of any member on the issue in the case,” said John Roberts, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The draft opinion’s release came while multiple abortion laws wind through Montana’s judicial system. Some of the laws in question outlaw abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, severely restrict access to abortion pills, require doctors to ask abortion patients if they want to see an ultrasound of the fetus.

All of those laws are on hold while the constitutionality is weighed by Montana courts. Additional laws are also under litigation regarding parental consent and notification for minors seeking abortions as well as a ban on abortion insurance coverage in publicly subsidized health plans.

After the draft opinion leaked, anti-abortion advocates in Montana became “cautiously optimistic” said Jeff Lazsloffy, president and CEO of the Montana Family Foundation. If the draft becomes the final court opinion the fight for illegal abortion would pivot back to the state level, Lazsloffy said.

This is due to the 1999 Montana Supreme Court decision in Armstrong v. State, which said the right to privacy in the Montana Constitution gave women the right to decide whether to have an abortion without excessive interference by the government. This allowed women to have an abortion prior to fetal viability.

Since the decision was handed down, any new restrictions on abortion passed by the Montana State Legislature are tested against the Armstrong ruling. Earlier this year, Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen asked the Montana Supreme Court to overturn the Armstrong decision.

Montana abortion rights governed by state law, not SCOTUS

“Armstrong,” Lazsloffy said. “Put us in a box.”

For Lazsloffy, the two paths to make abortion illegal in Montana are either to amend the state constitution to no longer protect abortion, or replace the entire Montana Supreme Court and get them to nullify Armstrong.

Planned Parenthood of Montana CEO Martha Fuller said she appreciated Lazsloffy’s forthrightness about his want to ban abortion in Montana. She stressed how his statements are an example of how important local elections are when it comes to issues such as abortion in Montana. She also pointed to how anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights advocates are still pushing for a federal law either protecting or banning abortion.

“Some things could happen on the national landscape as well,” Fuller said.

Activists from both sides came out across Montana to demonstrate after the release of the leaked opinion.

(MAY 5, 2022) A debate stirring up the country is the U.S. Supreme Court’s possible decision to overturn the Roe v. Wade case. That was a lawsuit that led the Supreme Court in 1973 to establish a Constitutional right to abortion in the United States.

A draft opinion signaling the court might reverse the 1973 ruling was leaked on Monday, May 2nd, and has sparked quite the debate. There have been protests in many communities across the nation - including in Montana - as the debate over the future of legal abortion is up in the air.

Planned Parenthood of Montana explained what the future of their services looks like if the bill is overturned.

“What will happen when the court issues this decision is that if it’s the decision that we expect, is that each state will then go back to be able to look at their own ways that they want to either ban or regulate abortion,” explained Martha Fuller, CEO of Planned Parenthood Montana. “So here in Montana, we’re relatively lucky because in our state constitution, we have a right to privacy and that’s not true in every state.”

Despite there being no word on a change in Montana in the foreseeable future, Fuller then went on to describe the current challenges that women face when looking at abortion options. “Even though today abortion is still legal in this country, there are already huge obstacles to people getting that care and so at Planned Parenthood we are really glad that our doors are open to provide that full range of sexual and reproductive healthcare.”