Montana District Court Blocks Several Unconstitutional Abortion Restrictions
For Immediate Release: May 24, 2023
HELENA, MT — Today, a Montana District Court judge granted abortion providers’ request for a preliminary injunction to block several restrictions on abortion access. The challenge to the laws was filed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the ACLU of Montana on behalf of All Families Healthcare, Blue Mountain Clinic, and Planned Parenthood of Montana. The restrictions blocked today include:
- HB 544 and a rule from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) that would effectively eliminate abortion access for most Medicaid patients in the state.
- HB 862, a law that like the federal Hyde Amendment, would prohibit the use of public funds for abortion care in almost all cases.
Joint statement from leaders from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Center for Reproductive Rights, and ACLU of Montana on behalf of All Families Healthcare, Blue Mountain Clinic, and Planned Parenthood of Montana:
“We are grateful that the court recognized the threat that these unconstitutional restrictions pose to patients across Montana and blocked them while the cases proceeded. While this fight is not yet over, we are relieved that Montanans can still access vital, medically necessary, and potentially life-saving reproductive health care services without being unjustly turned away due to their income and insurance status. Pregnant people who rely on Medicaid deserve the same access as every other Montanan to the full spectrum of reproductive health services, including abortion. We will not stop fighting to ensure that patients can make decisions about their own bodies, lives, and futures — no matter what.”
Currently, the state of Montana covers medically necessary abortions for patients enrolled in Medicaid. Among other restrictions, the DPHHS rule and HB544 implements a new definition of “medically necessary” that further restricts access to abortion, mandates that only physicians can provide abortions to Medicaid recipients, and delays access to time-sensitive services by imposing an unnecessary physical examination requirement and forcing providers to seek prior authorization for abortions for Medicaid-eligible Montanans. Plaintiffs argued that the rule would violate the Montana Constitution. For over twenty years, the Montana Supreme Court has recognized that the state constitution protects Montanans’ right to get an abortion from a health care provider of their choice, and it unanimously reaffirmed that holding in the Weems v. State of Montana case earlier this month.
HB 862 goes even further by blocking Montanans from using their Medicaid health insurance coverage to get an abortion entirely. Because of structural racism and discrimination, barriers to sexual and reproductive health care— such as the Hyde Amendment — disproportionately harm Indigenous, Black, and Latino communities and members of the 2S-LGBTQIA+ community.
The lawsuit was filed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Raph Graybill of the Graybill Law Firm, and Tanis Holm of Edmiston & Colton Law Firm on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Montana, and the Center for Reproductive Rights, the ACLU of Montana, and Erin Erickson of Bohyer, Erickson, Beaudette, and Tranel P.C. on behalf of All Families Healthcare and Blue Mountain Clinic.
Read a copy of the complaint here.
Planned Parenthood of Montana’s request for preliminary injunctions blocking HB 721 and HB 575 was also granted. HB 721 bans D&E procedures, the safest and most common method of abortion after approximately 15 weeks of pregnancy, and HB 575 requires all patients to undergo an ultrasound before getting an abortion, effectively banning direct-to-patient telehealth for medication abortions.