Planned Parenthood Sues Montana over Four Pro-Life Laws

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Sign on a Planned Parenthood building in New York in 2015. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Planned Parenthood of Montana has filed a lawsuit against the state of Montana, alleging that its new pro-life laws set to take effect on October 1 are unconstitutional.

The first bill prohibits most abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation, the point at which substantial scientific evidence suggests unborn children are able to feel pain. The second law requires abortion providers to offer women an ultrasound before having an abortion, though it does not require women to assent or to view ultrasound images.

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The third bill prohibits state health-insurance plans on the federal exchange from including coverage for elective abortions, a measure intended to protect the conscience rights of pro-life taxpayers.

The final law contains several policies regulating chemical abortions, the most common abortion procedure used in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. Citing the complication rates of chemical abortions and emphasizing the importance of informed consent, the bill requires that doctors provide women with abortion-inducing pills only after an in-person appointment.

Under its informed-consent provisions, the law requires that doctors tell women about new medical technology that has successfully reversed half-completed chemical abortions, so that women can access resources to halt their in-progress abortion if they regret their decision.

It also forbids manufacturers, suppliers, and doctors from sending abortion drugs via the mail. These safety standards for chemical-abortion drugs are the latest effort among pro-lifers to replace Food & Drug Administration regulations that the agency recently relaxed after a campaign from abortion-rights advocates.

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According to its website — the homepage of which features an enormous banner advertising “abortion meds by mail” — Planned Parenthood of Montana operates five facilities in the state, including four abortion clinics. In its complaint, the group argues that the state’s new laws violate the right to privacy and are “particularly cruel and prohibitive” for women in a state with limited abortion access.

“These laws are nothing more than poorly disguised attempts to chip away at Montanans’ access to safe and constitutional abortion,” the lawsuit states. “They will reduce the number and geographic distribution of locations in Montana where women can access safe and effective abortion care.”

The suit also objects in particular to the informed-consent requirements, arguing that sharing the list of possible risks and complications amounts to “biased counseling [that] attempts to scare women out of having” an abortion. The suit alleges that the provisions “are counter to true informed consent, in that they require providers to give patients false and medically unsupported information.”

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But the law requires abortion providers to share basic information such as the steps involved in a chemical abortion, possible medical risks and complications, and information about the procedure to reverse a chemical abortion, which, contrary to Planned Parenthood’s allegation, has been found successful and does not harm either the mother or unborn child.

One of Montana’s U.S. senators, Republican Steve Daines, condemned Planned Parenthood’s attempt to block the pro-life laws, calling it an effort  to “force an extreme abortion agenda” on the state.

“It is despicable that Planned Parenthood is seeking to undo the Montana legislature’s life-saving laws that prevent barbaric late-term abortions on babies who can feel pain, taxpayer funding for abortion, and reckless do-it-yourself abortions by mail,“ Daines, who heads the Senate Pro-Life Caucus, said in a statement. “This is yet another example of how the abortion industry puts profits over patients, ignores science, and weaponizes the courts to thwart the will of Montana voters.”

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