Montana Governor Signs Law Banning Second-Trimester Abortions

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed a bill into law on Tuesday that places a statewide ban on abortions after the first trimester of pregnancy.

With HB 721 signed into law, Montana residents are prohibited from electively having a dilation and evacuation abortion after about 15 weeks of pregnancy, unless in the event of a medical emergency where the child wouldn’t survive outside the womb. Dilation and evacuation abortions are the most common abortion method in the second trimester of pregnancy.

People who violate the new law can face a fine of up to $50,000, a prison sentence of five to 10 years, or both. Physicians who perform these abortions when it’s not a medical emergency can face a minimum one-year suspension of their state medical license, as well as fines.

“Dismemberment abortion 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,” Gianforte said during a bill signing earlier this month.

Last month, Planned Parenthood of Montana filed a lawsuit in an attempt to preemptively block the bill as it made its way through Montana’s legislature, The Associated Press reported. But District Court Judge Kathy Seeley said there was nothing to block, since the legislation hadn’t yet been signed into law.

After Gianforte signed the bill on Tuesday, Planned Parenthood of Montana filed to block the ban on dilation and evacuation abortion. The case remains pending, according to the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana.

“HB721 is a grave threat to Montanans’ health and safety and must be blocked,” PPAM President Martha Fuller said in a statement. “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. We hope the Court will block this dangerous abortion ban.”

The legislation is one of four GOP-backed abortion restrictions that Gianforte signed into law on Tuesday, along with five others he signed earlier this month, the Montana Free Press reported.

“I’m proud to round out our legislative session with another suite of pro-life, pro-family bills that protect the lives of unborn babies in Montana,” Gianforte said in a statement on Tuesday.

The ban on dilation and evacuation abortions after the second trimester arrives days after Montana’s Supreme Court upheld a ruling that allows some nurses to provide abortions, and reaffirmed a right to abortion under the state constitution’s right to privacy.

In the U.S., 14 states have banned most abortions. According to The New York Times, about half the states in the country are expected to try to enact bans or gestational limits on the procedure.

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