The court blocked three laws that would have taken effect on Oct. 1
BILLINGS — Today, a Montana District Court issued a preliminary injunction preventing three laws from taking effect that would have blocked access to abortion across the state of Montana. The court previously temporarily blocked the laws in advance of their Oct. 1 effective date. The laws, enacted in the 2021 legislative session, include:
• H.B. 136, an unconstitutional ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy;
• H.B. 171, an omnibus measure creating numerous barriers to medication abortion, which include requiring at least two in-person health center visits, medically inaccurate counseling, a dangerous public reporting requirement, and a ban on the use of telehealth for abortion; and
• H.B. 140, a mandatory ultrasound offer and documentation requirement designed to shame patients and stigmatize abortion.
Statement from Martha Stahl, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood of Montana:
“This is an important and hard-fought victory. We’re thrilled that the Montana District Court preliminarily blocked these unconstitutional laws, protecting Montanans’ access to safe, legal abortion. Planned Parenthood will always fight for our patients and stand up to anti-abortion lawmakers who willfully and cruelly work to undermine access to basic health care. All Montanans, particularly those living in rural areas, and Black, Indigenous, and Latino communities who are most impacted by these restrictions, deserve the freedom to make their own decisions about their bodies and their futures without political interference.”
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“Today, abortion continues to be available for the state’s 220,000 women of reproductive age — a temporary reprieve from these unnecessary and cruel restrictions. The laws blocked in Montana are among more than 100 anti-abortion laws enacted this year — the most in any year since Roe v. Wade was decided. This decision is a necessary step towards ensuring that essential reproductive health care is available in Montana without barriers, shame, and stigma. Planned Parenthood continues to serve patients in Montana, and to fight for equitable abortion access regardless of a person’s race, ZIP code, or income.”
Planned Parenthood of Montana, represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, WilmerHale, and the Graybill Law Firm, challenged these laws — as well as H.B. 229, which would ban abortion coverage in the state health insurance exchange — in August, asserting that they violate the Montana Constitution. The rights to privacy and access to safe abortion services are clearly protected under the state constitution — so much so that even the legislature’s own lawyers warned that the challenged laws could be deemed unconstitutional.
On September 30, 2021, the district court temporarily blocked the laws, which were set to take effect Oct. 1, while it considered Planned Parenthood’s pending motion for a preliminary injunction. The court has now granted the preliminary injunction, preventing the laws from taking effect while litigation continues.
The challenged laws would not only ban abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, but they would also create additional, medically unnecessary barriers to care for Montana’s roughly 220,000 women of reproductive age. For many Montanans, especially those who are Black, Latino, or Indigenous, who have low incomes, or who live in rural areas, accessing abortion is already difficult because they must secure the necessary funds, take time off work, and travel to appointments. By blocking these three laws while the case proceeds, the court has ensured that Montanans will continue to be able to access abortion without interference from politicians.
While the right to abortion remains protected in Montana for now, the state legislature has repeatedly attacked abortion rights and continues to do so. Indeed, the laws challenged by Planned Parenthood are straight out of the anti-abortion playbook that’s driven a nationwide effort to push abortion out of reach — or even outlaw it altogether. In 2021, almost 600 abortion restrictions have been proposed across the country, with more than 100 abortion restrictions enacted as of Sept. 1. The Montana constitution protects abortion more strongly than does the federal constitution. That federal protection may be further eroded in just a few months, when the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that could overturn or severely weaken Roe v. Wade. This could leave Montanans without any federal constitutional protections for abortion access whatsoever.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable sexual and reproductive health care for all people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect, and without judgment, striving to create equitable access to health care. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable education and information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives. Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that supports the independently incorporated Planned Parenthood affiliates operating health centers across the U.S.
Planned Parenthood of Montana (PPMT) is a leading statewide organization that provides the full range of reproductive health care services, including birth control and abortion, life-saving cancer screenings, STI and HIV prevention, trans health care, testing and treatment for STIs, breast health services, Pap tests, sexual health education, and mental health counseling. PPMT’s mission is to lead by providing, promoting, and protecting sexual and reproductive health care and education for all Montanans.
Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP provides legal representation across a comprehensive range of practice areas that are critical to the success of its clients. The law firm’s leading Intellectual Property, Litigation/Controversy, Regulatory and Government Affairs, Securities and Financial Services, and Transactional Departments participate in some of the highest-profile legal and policy matters. With a staunch commitment to public service, WilmerHale is renowned as a leader in pro bono representation. The firm is 1,000 lawyers strong with 13 offices in the United States, Europe and Asia. For more information, please visit wilmerhale.com.