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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Capitol Briefs: abortion law struck down; Indian Child Welfare Act passes House

Montana Capitol dome
Ellis Juhlin
Montana Capitol dome

Law to require parental consent for minors to get an abortion struck down

Shaylee Ragar | Montana Public Radio

A Lewis and Clark County District Court judge has struck down a decade-old law to require parental consent for minors under 16-years-old to obtain an abortion.

The Montana Legislature passed the consent law in 2013 and it was preliminarily blocked while a challenge from Planned Parenthood of Montana played out in court. In his rule, Judge Chris Abbott found it unconstitutional, citing the court precedent that says the state’s right to privacy protects access to abortion. A spokesperson for Attorney General Austin Knudsen said the office plans to immediately appeal the ruling to the Montana Supreme Court.

Abbott is sending a separate law that requires parental notification before a minor can obtain an abortion to trial. That policy was passed by voter referendum in 2012. A trial date will be set later this spring.

Indian Child Welfare Act passed the House

Indian Child Welfare Act passed the House

Ellis Juhlin | Montana Public Radio

The Montana Indian Child Welfare Act has passed in the state’s House of Representatives with bipartisan support.

The bill would create a state-level act modeled after the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, which guides the removal and out-of-home placement of Native American children, prioritizing their placement into the homes of family members or other tribal members.

According to data from the National Indian Child Welfare Association, the number of Native American children in foster care is nearly three times higher than their proportion in the overall population.

The federal ICWA is currently being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court. Critics say the policy discriminates based on race. Supporters of Montana’s policy say a local version of the act will ensure protections for tribes and Native American families in the state regardless of what occurs at the federal level.

The bill has been supported by the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, the Montana American Indian Caucus and all of the state’s tribes.

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