Montana Attorney General asks court to dismiss Planned Parenthood challenges to four pro-life laws

By Dave Andrusko

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte

On August 16, NRL News Today reported that a tweet from Planned Parenthood of Montana promised, “So, we’re suing Governor Greg Gianforte.”  And so they did–in September in a lawsuit filed in Yellowstone District Court –targeting four laws passed in this latest legislative session. Holly Michels of the Helena Independent Record summarized them, writing

The laws ban abortions after 20 weeks gestational age [when babies are pain-capable]; require a woman be informed of the option to view an ultrasound before an abortion; require informed consent before a drug-induced abortion and block providing the medication through the mail; and prohibit health insurances plans sold in the federal exchanged in Montana from covering abortion care.

 HB 136, HB 171, HB 140, and HB 229 are scheduled to take effect October 1.

“The state asked Tuesday for the court to reject Planned Parenthood’s request to block the laws before they take effect, saying the laws will ‘help minimize the medical risks’ during pregnancy,” the Associated Press reported. ADF Senior Counsel Denise Harle, who is defending the state, said in a statement, “Because the regulations at issue protect women from the very people who are suing against these laws, Planned Parenthood has no basis for asking the court to halt what the legislature had every prerogative to pass.” 

Each of the bills passed the Montana legislature overwhelmingly. Under the category of elections-do-make-a-difference, they were signed into law by pro-life Governor Greg Gianforte, the first Republican governor in 16 years.

As we reported at the time, Gov. Gianforte said

“Today we’re taking action to protect the most vulnerable amongst us, the unborn — we are celebrating life.”

He also said, according to an earlier story by Michels,

“There were many who served in this building before us who champion the unborn, people who worked hard to advance the cause of life. ….Unfortunately, their efforts were vetoed. But not today.”

More specifically, House Bill 136—the Montana Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act–bans abortions performed on pain-capable unborn children who are 20 weeks gestation age. House Bill 140 offers the opportunity for abortion-minded women to view an ultrasound of their unborn child.

HB171 requires informed consent for a woman undergoing chemical (or “medication”) abortions and have an in-person visit. It also prohibits women from accessing medication abortion through the mail and through telehealth. In addition (according to Planned Parenthood of Montana’s lawsuit), “H.B. 229, would prohibit any insurance plan that provides coverage for abortion from being offered on the Affordable Care Act exchange.”

Planned Parenthood was unable to challenge the referendum on the Montana Born-Alive Infant Protection Act which will take place in 2022. If passed by the voters, it would “require health care providers to take ‘all medically appropriate and reasonable actions to preserve the life and health’ of any child born as the result of natural, induced or cesarean labor or an abortion, ”Michels reported.