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‘Lowering the standard’: Court voids Montana law, allows non-physicians to commit abortions

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A Montana judge has permanently voided a state law stipulating that only physicians and physician assistants can commit abortions.

According to Great Falls Tribune, the ruling impacts a 2005 state law that prohibited non-physicians — like midwives and nurse practitioners — from performing abortions. That law was challenged in 2018 by Helen Weems, a nurse. After the challenge, Judge Mike Menahan placed a temporary injunction on the law which prevented the state from enforcing it while litigation was in process. That injunction was later upheld by the Montana Supreme Court. Menahan was the ruling judge in the final opinion, which now permanently voids the law.

“The State has failed to demonstrate a compelling interest in limiting abortion providers to licensed physicians and physician assistants,” Menahan wrote in his ruling. “State has not clearly and convincingly demonstrated a medically acknowledged, bona fide health risk which justifies interfering with a patient’s fundamental right to choose her own health care provider.”

Caitlin Borgmann, executive director of the ACLU of Montana, hailed the decision. “This ruling reaffirms that, here in Montana, we have a constitutional right to privacy, and that right to privacy encompasses the right to an abortion, and for no politician or law to be able to limit the intimate health care decisions of Montanans without a compelling reason,” she said.

READ: Hawaii governor signs law allowing non-physicians to commit abortions

According to the Great Falls Tribune, nurses in the state are governed by an entity known as the Board of Nursing. Previously, that board determined that abortions are not “significantly different” than other procedures that nurse practitioners usually perform, and that there was no need to restrict them from committing abortion.

Abortion does come with many risks, including infection, hemorrhaging, damage to the cervix and uterus, scar tissue, damage to the uterine lining, and death. Allowing someone who is not a medical doctor to commit this procedure puts the lives of even more women in danger.

And, despite the nursing boards’ statements, abortion is different from nearly every other nursing procedure. A nurse’s primary job is to provide medical care and attention with the intention of saving lives, while abortion always ends a life.

“Once again abortionists sued to lower the standard of care for Montana women in order to further their financial interests in performing as many abortions as possible,” Emilee Cantrell, press secretary for Attorney General Austin Knudsen, said according to KTVH. “We will appeal the decision.”

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