State Appeals Decision To Block Montana's New Abortion Laws

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana's Attorney General is appealing in the state Supreme Court against a decision by a district court judge to block several laws restricting abortion access while a legal challenge is underway.

Republican Attorney General Austin Knudsen filed the notice of appeal on Tuesday, after Yellowstone District Court Judge Michael Moses issued a preliminary injunction earlier this month that temporarily stopped the laws from going into effect.

Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the state in August, arguing the new abortion laws violate the Montana Constitution and asking for three of the laws to be blocked while the lawsuit is ongoing.

The laws would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, restrict access to abortion pills and require abortion providers to ask patients if they would like to view an ultrasound of the fetus.

Moses wrote in his decision to grant the preliminary injunction that abortion patients would be “irreparably harmed through the loss of their constitutional rights” if the laws took effect while the legal challenge is ongoing.

Planned Parenthood officials have argued that the laws violate Montana’s constitutional right to privacy, which they said protects access to abortion.

More than 90% of abortions in the U.S. take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy and 1% take place at 21 weeks or later, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Emilee Cantrell, a spokesperson for Knudsen, has said that the Montana judge's injunction “deprives women and unborn children of commonsense health protections,” but health experts have said the laws would not protect the health of patients seeking abortions.

The laws were passed earlier this year by the Republican-dominated Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Greg Gianforte, who last November became Montana’s first Republican governor in 16 years. His Democratic predecessors blocked previous attempts in Montana to limit abortion access.

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Samuels is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.