Montana judge rules three abortion-related laws passed in 2021 violate state constitution

Montana-U.S. Flags
Posted at 5:58 PM, Feb 29, 2024

HELENA — A state district judge has issued a ruling, permanently blocking three laws from the 2021 legislative session that tightened abortion restrictions.

Judge Kurt Krueger, a Butte-Silver Bow judge handling a case in Yellowstone County, granted summary judgment Thursday and put a permanent injunction on the laws. In his decision, he said they were incompatible with the Montana Constitution.

“Under the guise of concern for the patient, they invade the private ‘treatment room,’ imposing severe burdens on both without clear justification supported by credible evidence,” he wrote in his decision.

Planned Parenthood of Montana challenged the bills in court, saying they were violations of the right to privacy. All three have been on hold since 2021 under a preliminary injunction, which was upheld by the Montana Supreme Court in 2022.

The three laws were:

· House Bill 136, which would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except when necessary to prevent serious health risk to the mother.
· House Bill 140, which would have required abortion providers to ask patients if they wanted to see an ultrasound of the fetus or listen to its heartbeat.
· House Bill 171, which would have put additional restrictions on medication abortion, including requiring patients to make two in-person visits to a provider.

In his ruling, Krueger again cited the Montana Supreme Court’s 1999 ruling, commonly known as the Armstrong decision, which stated that the state constitution’s right to privacy protected access to abortion before a fetus is viable.

Gov. Greg Gianforte and Attorney General Austin Knudsen have argued the Armstrong case was wrongly decided, and the state again made that argument in this case. However, Krueger said in his decision that the district court must adhere to the precedent set in Armstrong.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood of Montana president and CEO Martha Fuller praised this decision, but said they were still fighting against more abortion restrictions passed in the 2023 legislative session.

“We are relieved that Montanans will no longer live with the threat of these harmful restrictions taking effect,” she said. “But make no mistake, our fight continues.”

A spokesperson for Knudsen’s office said in a statement to MTN that they plan to appeal Krueger’s decision.

“Attorney General Knudsen remains committed to protecting the health and safety of women and unborn babies in Montana,” they said.

Read the judge's full decision below: