Montana Judge Blocks Four Pro-Life Laws That Would Save Babies From Abortions

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   May 24, 2023   |   12:20PM   |   Helena, Montana

Four Montana laws that would protect unborn babies from abortion, including one barring taxpayer-funded abortions, will remain blocked as a result of a judge’s ruling Tuesday.

KTVH News reports District Court Judge Mike Menahan issued preliminary injunctions blocking the four laws in response to lawsuits from Planned Parenthood and the abortion facilities Blue Mountain Clinic and All Families Healthcare.

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

Menahan’s orders temporarily block the pro-life laws while the parties prepare their full arguments for court.

One law would ban brutal dismemberment abortions in which second-trimester babies are pulled apart limb from limb while their hearts are still beating and then removed in pieces from the womb. Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the anti-cruelty law earlier this month, but Planned Parenthood immediately sued to block it.

Two of the other blocked laws protect taxpayers from being forced to pay for killing unborn babies in elective abortions.

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State House Bill 862 prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortions through the state Medicaid program. Exceptions are allowed in cases of rape, incest or situations where the mother’s life is at risk. The second law, House Bill 544, establishes requirements for the state health department to ensure that the limited abortions covered by taxpayers through Medicaid are medically necessary.

If both laws go into effect, abortionist Helen Weems, an advanced practice registered nurse who runs All Families Healthcare, said she may have to close her abortion facility, according to the report. Weems said more than half of her abortion patients use Medicaid.

Planned Parenthood estimated almost half of its abortion patients also rely on Medicaid, the report continues.

Assistant Attorney General Thane Johnson responded to their claims by pointing out that state lawmakers have the authority to decide how tax dollars are spent. Most states do not force taxpayers to fund abortions through Medicaid, and polls consistently show most Americans do not want their tax dollars to pay for ending unborn babies’ lives.

The judge also blocked a fourth law that requires abortion facilities to provide an ultrasound prior to every abortion.

Here’s more from the Helena Independent Record:

[P]laintiffs made the case that the ultrasound requirement effectively outlawed telehealth medication abortions, by requiring an in-person visit prior to being prescribed the medication.

“That adds an extra step to the procedure and it obviates the whole benefit of doing direct-to-patient abortion care,” said Dr. Stephen Ralston, a professor of OBGYN at the University of Maryland who testified remotely as an expert witness for the plaintiffs.

The [attorney general’s office] cited witness testimony to make the case that ultrasounds are the accepted medical standard for determining the gestational age of a fetus, and identifying potential complications like an ectopic pregnancy. That refers to a dangerous condition in which the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus.

Menahan justified his ruling, arguing that temporarily blocking the laws keeps the “status quo” in Montana, according to the report.

“I think the purpose of an injunction is to essentially maintain the status quo,” Menahan said. “That, above all considerations, is the most important one for me.”

Republicans control the Montana Legislature. This spring, they passed a slew of pro-life laws, including legislation to ban late-term abortions, make clear that the state constitution does not include a right to abort unborn babies, protect babies who survive abortions from infanticide and protect the conscience rights of pro-life medical professionals, according to the Independent Record.

Montana voters elected a strong majority of pro-life lawmakers to office, but courts repeatedly have thwarted their efforts to protect unborn babies’ lives. Most decisions are based on a 1999 Montana Supreme Court ruling that improperly found a “right” to abort unborn babies in the state constitution based on the right to privacy.

In 2020, there were 1,675 abortions reported in Montana, according to the state health department.