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Montana abortion laws ruled unconstitutional and void in Billings court

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Posted at 10:25 PM, Mar 01, 2024

A judge in Yellowstone County blocked three abortion laws.

In 2021, the Montana legislature passed laws dealing with the pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act, ultrasounds, and abortion-inducing drugs.

The court suspended those laws that same year.

Read the ruling here.

In his ruling, Judge Kurt Krueger stated the laws "invade the private treatment room."

He also wrote: "The Court finds all three laws incompatible with the text of the Montana Constitution and values it recognizes, and therefore deems them void and unenforceable."

Dr. Samuel Dickman, Planned Parenthood of Montana chief medical officer, supports the ruling.

"Montana's constitution is very clear,” said Dickman. “It says the people of Montana deserve and have a very strong right to privacy. And the state Supreme Court affirmed that and said in the Armstrong decision, that includes abortion."

Others such as Jeff Laszloffy, Montana Family Foundation president, say the laws are unconstitutional because of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

"The logic in overturning Roe v. Wade held that it should not have been premised on a right to privacy,” Laszloffy said. “We believe that if Roe v. Wade falls then since the Armstrong decision in Montana was modeled after Roe, the Armstrong decision should fall as well."

House Bill 136 would have prohibited the abortion of an unborn child capable of feeling pain starting at 20 weeks.

House Bill 140 would have required that women be afforded the opportunity to view an ultrasound and listen to the fetal heart tone.

And House Bill 171 would have restricted certain abortion medications.

“One of the laws would have banned all telemedicine-based medication abortion,” Dickman said. “In a state like Montana, I have patients who travel five or six hours for an abortion. For a lot of patients, they just can't do that."

In his ruling, the judge wrote that the law is restrictive, saying it is not up to legislators to substitute their personal values and beliefs for the collective professional judgment and expertise of properly licensed medical providers.

"The Legislature gets involved in issues like this all the time,” said Laszloffy. “And when (the judge) talks about the professional medical community, he needs to remember that he's talking about a very minute group of doctors that perform abortions for profit."

"Patients want to be able to see a medical provider and feel like they are getting the best possible medical care, without interference from politicians," Dickman said.

Attorney General Austin Knudsen, a Republican, says the state will appeal the order.

“Attorney General Knudsen remains committed to protecting the health and safety of women and unborn babies in Montana,” said Emilee Cantrell, the communications director for the attorney general.