Within hours of a pro-life bill being signed into law, Judge issues Temporary Restraining Order

By Dave Andrusko

Gov. Gianforte signing HB 303 with the bill sponsor, Rep. Amy Regier
Photo: Office of the Governor (Montana)

Well, as we all anticipated, that didn’t take long. No sooner had pro-life Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a package of strong pro-life law (and promised to sign more when they arrive on his desk) than Planned Parenthood rushed into court. The result was a temporary restraining order against one of the laws—House Bill 575—issued Thursday afternoon.

Lewis and Clark County District Judge Mike Menahan issued a brief three page order saying that the bill “impermissibly infringes on Montanans’ constitutional right to a pre-viability abortion both by requiring all patients to undergo an ultrasound before receiving an abortion and by suggesting advance practice registered nurses cannot perform abortions.”

Judge Menahan will hear arguments for a preliminary injunction on  May 12.

The new law, HB 575, “would prohibit the abortion of viable fetuses, a point the bill sets at 24 weeks’ gestation,” Sam Wilson reported. The law “would have required healthcare providers to perform an ultrasound on a woman who seeks an abortion, and also requires written documentation to be kept on file that documents that the fetus is not viable,” according to Darrell Ehrlich.

At the signing ceremony Wednesday on the steps of the Montana State Capitol in Helena, Gov. Gianforte said “Today, we’re protecting the lives of the most vulnerable amongst us: unborn children.” He went on to add, “Our Declaration of Independence clearly states that we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights—that ‘among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But without life, there is no liberty or the pursuit of happiness.”

As noted above, altogether the governor signed five pieces of legislation. The Infant Care and Safety Act (HB 625) protects life by providing legal protections to and ensuring appropriate medical care for children who survive abortions. “

Every human life is valuable, and every baby deserves to be protected,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Denise Burke said. “The Infant Care and Safety Act provides legal protection for babies who survive abortions, ending the inhumane practice where these children can be left to die without even minimal effort being made to save them. The bill is an important step in advancing human rights and protecting vulnerable babies in Montana.”

House Bill 786, “requires reporting of adverse effects following medication abortions,” Wilson reported.

Another bill, House Bill 303, “gives doctors, nurses and other providers the ability to refuse to perform abortions or prescribe marijuana or opioids, according to bill sponsor Rep. Amy Regier, R-Kalispell.  

“For too long, the First Amendment rights of these providers have been ignored and left unprotected,” the governor said. “HB 303 changes that. It establishes the right of medical conscience, protecting nurses and physicians who cannot conscientiously perform a specific procedure.”

Finally, the package “strengthens Montana law to better ensure taxpayer dollars are not used to fund elective abortions.”

“Montanans sent us to Helena to boldly defend life, not send their tax dollars to abortion clinics,” the governor said, praising sponsors Rep. Jane Gillette, R-Bozeman, and Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula, who carried HB 544 and HB 862, respectively. “Montanans hard-earned money should not be used by the government to fund elective abortions.