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MT Supreme Court ruling opens door to expand abortion services statewide

HELENA – The Montana Supreme Court has upheld a 2018 Helena district judge’s decision that opens the door for expanded abortion services in the state.

The high court’s decision allows advanced practice nurses and nurse midwives to continue to provide abortion care without the threat of criminal prosecution while a state law allowing only physicians and physician assistants to perform the procedure is challenged.

“The decision unequivocally confirms that the Montana Constitution protects the right of Montanans to access abortion from a qualified health provider of their choosing,” said ACLU of Montana Executive Director Caitlin Borgmann.

The state Supreme Court held that the district court properly found a likelihood of irreparable injury during the length of the lawsuit to patients who would qualify for the procedure.

District Judge Mike Menahan of Helena granted an injunction in April of 2018 — ruling that the law barring certain nurses from performing abortions in the state should not be enforced while he decides a lawsuit that asks for the law to be struck down permanently.

The case was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights and ACLU of Montana on behalf of Helen Weems, an advanced practice nurse, and a certified midwife only identified as Jane Doe.

“So many people get their primary healthcare from an advanced practice clinician that is not a doctor and they provide good quality services,” said Borgmann.

“Montanans should be able to get the full array of services from those providers, including abortion.”

While abortion rights supporters are calling the Montana Supreme Court’s decision a win, it is still only temporary at this point. The case remains pending in the First Judicial District Court, Lewis and Clark County.

-Russ Riesinger reporting for MTN News

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