Montana governor signs ban on second trimester abortion procedure

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Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed a bill into law on Tuesday that will effectively ban abortions in the state after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Gianforte’s office said in a release that the legislation will restrict dilation and evacuation abortions, a form of abortion primarily used during the second trimester of pregnancy, except for cases of medical emergency where the child would not survive outside of the womb.

Planned Parenthood of Montana on Tuesday asked a state judge to temporarily block the law.

“HB 721 is a grave threat to Montanans’ health and safety and must be blocked. Given the law’s immediate effective date, patients across the state can already be denied access to care that was legally available moments before the Governor’s signature today,” Martha Fuller, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Montana, said in a statement.

Gianforte said at a bill signing earlier this month that having this type of procedure “for nontherapeutic or elective reasons is a barbaric practice, dangerous for the mother, and demeaning to the medical profession.”

“House Bill 721 makes clear that it has no place in Montana,” he said.

Gianforte’s signature came after a judge ruled last month against a request from Planned Parenthood to preemptively block the bill before it took effect. Planned Parenthood had argued that the law should be struck down as unconstitutional because of a 1999 Montana Supreme Court ruling that the state constitution’s right to privacy protects the right to abortion of the patient’s choice before the fetus is viable.

The judge ruled that they had nothing to block because the law had not taken effect yet.

Gianforte’s action also comes after he signed several other bills earlier this month to restrict abortion rights, including one that states that the Montana Constitution’s privacy provision does not protect the right to abortion, contradicting the state supreme court ruling. He also signed legislation to ban abortion after 24 weeks except to protect the life of the mother.

The Tuesday release also states that Gianforte signed bills to require the state Department of Health and Human Services to ensure abortions covered by Medicaid are medically necessary and to ban the use of taxpayer dollars to cover abortions except to save the mother’s life or in cases of rape or incest.

The law banning the dilation and evacuation abortions states that violators found guilty could be fined up to $50,000 and imprisoned for five to 10 years.

The state Democratic Party slammed Gianforte’s actions as cruel and unconstitutional.

“Gov. Gianforte signing this ban into law makes clear that Republicans will stop at nothing to take away Montanans’ rights and freedoms. Health care decisions should be between women, their families, and their doctors – not Republican politicians. Make no mistake, Montana Democrats will fight back against this unconstitutional ban with everything we’ve got,” Sheila Hogan, the executive director of the Montana Democratic Party, said in a release.

The release notes that the state Supreme Court upheld its prior decision finding that some abortion rights are protected in the state constitution last week.

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