Montana court puts hold on new law banning common abortion procedure

Montana State Capitol
Posted at 10:21 AM, May 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-18 12:25:59-04

HELENA — A Montana District Court has temporarily blocked a new state ban on a specific abortion procedure commonly used after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Thursday morning, Judge Mike Menahan granted Planned Parenthood of Montana’s temporary restraining order on the enforcement of House Bill 721 until further ruled by the court. Menahan notes in his ruling the law may be in violation of the Montana Constitution.

HB 721 titled “The Dismemberment Abortion Prohibition Act” was brought forward by Speaker of the House Matt Regier, R-Kallispell.

The law specifically prohibits the use of what the medical community formally calls “dilation and evacuation” abortions. The procedure is a form of surgical abortion in which a fetus is removed using forceps or similar tools. It is a typical form of abortion during the second trimester of pregnancy – after 12 weeks.

The law also establishes a felony charge for anyone who performs that type of abortion and requires suspending a physician or physician assistant’s medical license for at least a year.

(Read the Temporary Restraining Order on HB 721)

HB 721 passed on a party-line vote in the House and a primarily party-line vote in the Senate with three Republicans joining Democrats in opposition. Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the bill into law on May 16.

During the 2023 legislative session, Republican lawmakers proposed and passed a number of bills aimed at restricting abortion in Montana.

Access to abortion in Montana has been protected by the Armstrong decision. In 1999, the Montana Supreme Court ruled in Armstrong v. State that the state constitution’s guaranteed right to privacy allowed women to have an abortion before fetal viability.