Attorneys for the state file notices of appeal in abortion cases with Montana Supreme Court

By Dave Andrusko

Add the aggressive advocacy of Planned Parenthood to the pro-abortion decisions routinely made by Montana District Court Judge Mike Menahan and you have the recipe for a tough row to hoe for pro-life measures.

The latest turn, according to Blair Miller of the Daily Montanan, is

The Montana Department of Justice and attorneys for the state have filed notices of appeal with the state Supreme Court after a judge in Helena [Menahan]  blocked several newly signed bills restricting abortion access and a state health department rule on Medicaid-funded abortions. …

The state filed notices of appeal on May 24 with the Supreme Court in the two lawsuits that District Judge Mike Menahan handed down preliminary injunctions a day beforehand.

Menahan has been busy. Last month, he blocked a law that protects living unborn children from being killed in dilation and evacuation [D&E] abortions. The new law, HB 571, “would prohibit the abortion of viable fetuses, a point the bill sets at 24 weeks’ gestation,” Sam Wilson reported.

The law would also “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.

Planned Parenthood argued that “this prevents women from undergoing chemical abortions; currently, Planned Parenthood patients who use the abortion pill regimen do not receive ultrasounds beforehand — yet ultrasounds before a chemical abortion are necessary to determine the woman’s gestational age and to rule out an extrauterine pregnancy,” Cassy Fiano-Chesser reported. Less than 48 hours later, Menahan put a temporary block on it.

In issuing a brief three page order, Judge Menahan said 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.”

Following a May 23rd hearing, Menahan stopped several other pro-life initiatives, according to Fiano-Chesser:

The first case involves a DPHHS [the Department of Health and Human Services]rule requiring prior authorization before the state Medicaid program pays for abortions. Currently, the state will use taxpayer dollars to cover abortions that are deemed “medically necessary.” However, DPHHS said a review found that most abortions funded by the state were not, in fact, medically necessary.

House Bill 544 would codify the DPHHS rule into law, while House Bill 862 would make it so that the only abortions covered by state funding were those committed in cases of rape and incest, and when the woman’s life is in danger.

Menahan’s rulings were criticized by Emily Flowers, a spokesperson for Attorney General Austin Knudsen and the Department of Justice. In a statement Flower said

“It’s not surprising that a judge who had a 100% voting record with Planned Parenthood while a Democrat in the legislature would block the most basic health protections for pregnant women and unborn babies,” she said. “That said, this is a preliminary matter at this point. The complete factual and legal argument will reinforce the constitutionality of these laws.”