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Montana judge declares 3 laws restricting abortion unconstitutional

A view of the Montana State Capitol on May 3, 2023, in Helena, Montana.
Justin Sullivan
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Getty Images
A view of the Montana State Capitol on May 3, 2023, in Helena, Montana.

Three Montana laws restricting abortion rights, including a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, have been struck down in court as unconstitutional.

District Court Judge Kurt Krueger wrote in his ruling that the regulations attempt to impose severe burdens on abortion access without clear justification or credible evidence.

The laws, passed by the Montana legislature in 2021, would have banned abortion at 20 weeks, barred doctors from prescribing medication abortions via telehealth services, required a 24-hour waiting period for medication abortions, and would have required doctors to offer an ultrasound before an abortion.

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The laws had been blocked by a preliminary injunction that was granted in October 2021. Under the court's ruling, the laws cannot be enforced.

Krueger's decision referenced a Montana Supreme Court precedent from 1999 finding the state's constitutional right to privacy protects access to pre-viability abortion. The state's high court reaffirmed that precedent in a ruling last spring.

A spokesperson for Attorney General of Montana Austin Knudsen said the state plans to appeal the ruling to the Montana Supreme Court, saying he's committed to "protecting the health and safety of women and unborn babies."

Republicans in the state legislature continue to push for restrictions on abortion access.

Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called the Thursday ruling a critical victory.

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"As we celebrate today, we will continue to build on this win to fight for equitable abortion access in Montana and beyond," McGill said in a statement, adding that Montana will remain a crucial access point for those seeking abortion in the Rocky Mountain West.

Several more anti-abortion rights laws are facing court challenges in Montana, including half a dozen from the 2023 legislative session. All anti-abortion rights restrictions, except for one requiring parental notification for patients 15-years-old or younger, have been blocked in court while those lawsuits play out.

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Shaylee Ragar
Shaylee is a UM Journalism School student. She reports and helps produce Montana Evening News on MTPR.