Red-State Supreme Court Upholds Constitutional Right To Abortion In GOP Humiliation

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The state Supreme Court in Montana has ruled in favor of moderately expanded access to abortion in a state where Democrats and Republicans have both won statewide elections in recent years, though Republicans have taken the state in many recent presidential races.

As explained in a recap from the Brennan Center for Justice, the dispute before that state’s highest court dealt with whether medical personnel known as advanced practice registered nurses can provide abortions, and, well, the court decided in the affirmative. There had been a law on the rhetorical books in Montana predating the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade that asserted otherwise, sparking years of challenges. The state Supreme Court in Montana has previously held that there is a general right in the state under its Constitution to abortion care, though such a finding has not stopped Republicans who run the state government from nonetheless seeking to restrict the procedure. Gov. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, has already signed additional restrictions on abortion into state law, sparking yet another turn to the courts.

The Montana state Supreme Court’s decision recognizing a general right to an abortion came in 1999, the Brennan Center said. In this dispute, judicial authorities in the state pointed to the established precedent in the relevant medical circles of those nurses handling abortions. After similar lower-level findings, the state Supreme Court said there was “no medically acknowledged, bona fide health risk for the State to restrict the availability of abortion care by preventing [advanced practice registered nurses] from performing abortions.”

The availability of abortion in Montana is already scarce. Only a tiny fraction of the state’s counties are even home to abortion providers. Systems of state courts have become the key rhetorical battleground over access to abortion after Roe was undone, as that federal decision left a great deal of decision-making power back with state authorities. Many states have also moved the opposite direction. Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer even recently signed protections against discrimination for people who have had abortions into law, following other new protections in that state for the actual procedure.