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State Supreme Court upholds block on new anti-abortion laws

The Montana Supreme Court has upheld a temporary block on three new laws that restrict access to abortion. A lawsuit challenging those laws is awaiting trial.

The high court on Tuesday ruled that Yellowstone County District Court correctly blocked the abortion laws passed in 2021 while litigation continues in the lower court. The laws ban abortion at 20 weeks, require providers to offer an ultrasound to patients and restrict access to medication abortions.

Attorney General Austin Knudsen had asked the Montana Supreme Court to allow the laws to take effect in addition to a request to overturn the Armstrong precedent, a ruling that protects access to abortion based on the state’s constitutional right to privacy.

The state supreme court declined to address the second request, saying the issue at hand is the preliminary injunction and not the underlying merits of the case. The court also denied Gov. Greg Gianforte’s request to reopen briefing in the case and accept his amicus brief supporting the attorney general’s argument.

Knudsen said in a statement it’s unfortunate “the state Supreme Court dodged that question and reaffirmed one of the most radical abortion regimes in the nation.”

In the wake of the Dobbs decision overturning federal protections for abortion, states around the country are now deciding whether to ban, restrict, protect or expand access to abortion.

Shaylee is Montana Public Radio's Capitol reporter. She previously worked for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and covered the 2019 legislative session for the University of Montana's Legislative News Service.
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