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Montana laws to restrict abortion remain 'paused' as constitutionality is weighed

Abortion Pills
Posted at 4:02 PM, Aug 09, 2022

HELENA — Three new Montana laws meant to restrict abortion will remain on pause until after a trial to decide whether they are constitutional, according to a ruling from the Montana Supreme Court on Tuesday, August 9, 2022.

In 2021, the Montana State Legislature's Republican majority passed three bills, which together would have banned abortions at 20 weeks, eliminated tele-health services for medication abortions and required that abortion providers offer patients an opportunity to hear a fetal heart tone or see an image of the fetus prior to an abortion.

A five justice panel reviewed the court's decision to temporarily stop the laws from taking effect. Montana Supreme Court Justice Beth Baker wrote the opinion and said Yellowstone County District Court Judge Michael Moses was correct to block implementation of the laws because all three appeared to violate the Montana State Constitution.

The Montana Supreme Court's 1999 Armstrong decision set the precedent that the right to privacy in Montana's Constitution protected a person's bodily autonomy, including a person's right to a pre-viability abortion.

"The District Court found that the challenged laws restrict abortion," Baker wrote in the majority opinion. "Because they ban certain pre-viability abortions, they restrict access to medication abortions, and they stigmatize and deter patients from seeking out abortion services."

Planned Parenthood of Montana filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the laws in August 2021. The case will return the Yellowstone County District Court for trial, Baker wrote.

Justices Jim Shea, Laurie McKinnon, Dirk Sandefur, and Jim Rice concurred with Baker's opinion. Click here to read the full text of the ruling (PDF).