A district court judge has blocked two pro-life laws in Montana, as members of the abortion industry have filed lawsuits in an attempt to stop them.
District Court Judge Mike Menahan blocked several measures in a hearing held on May 23. The first case involves a DPHHS rule requiring prior authorization before the state Medicaid program pays for abortions. Currently, the state will use taxpayer dollars to cover abortions that are deemed “medically necessary.” However, DPHHS said a review found that most abortions funded by the state were not, in fact, medically necessary.
House Bill 544 would codify the DPHHS rule into law, while House Bill 862 would make it so that the only abortions covered by state funding were those committed in cases of rape and incest, and when the woman’s life is in danger.
Dr. Samuel Dickman, Planned Parenthood of Montana’s chief medical officer, said nearly half of their patients receive Medicaid funding. Raph Graybill, an attorney representing Planned Parenthood of Montana, said these measures are discriminatory. “Even before the Armstrong decision in Montana, our courts said that you can’t discriminate against people because they’re lower-income and deny them access to health care – and that includes abortion care,” Graybill said.
The state rebutted that argument by pointing out that keeping abortion legal and paying for abortions with state funding are two separate issues.
The second case involves House Bill 575, which requires an ultrasound to be performed before an abortion is committed. Planned Parenthood argued that it prevents women from undergoing chemical abortions; currently, Planned Parenthood patients who use the abortion pill regimen do not receive ultrasounds beforehand — yet ultrasounds before a chemical abortion are necessary to determine the woman’s gestational age and to rule out an extrauterine pregnancy.
Menahan agreed to enjoin all of the restrictions being challenged by the abortion industry, meaning all of them are blocked. “I think the purpose of an injunction is to essentially maintain the status quo,” he said. “That, above all considerations, is the most important one for me.”
Earlier this month, the same judge blocked a law that protects preborn children from being killed in dilation and evacuation, or D&E, abortions. These brutal procedures are often referred to as “dismemberment” abortions. Less than 48 hours after Governor Greg Gianforte signed it into law, Menahan put a temporary block on it.
Emily Flower, a spokesperson for Attorney General Austin Knudsen and the Department of Justice, released a statement criticizing Menahan’s rulings, insinuating that they were politically motivated.
“It’s not surprising that a judge who had a 100% voting record with Planned Parenthood while a Democrat in the legislature would block the most basic health protections for pregnant women and unborn babies,” she said. “That said, this is a preliminary matter at this point. The complete factual and legal argument will reinforce the constitutionality of these laws.”