Originally published in the Missoulian Op-ed section

In the State of Montana, privacy is a value that is deeply embedded in our ethos, so much so that it is written into the state constitution. Montana’s Supreme Court has repeatedly and, as recently as 2018, recognized that this constitutional right to privacy encompasses a right against forced pregnancy. Now, some politicians in Montana are trying to take this precious right from you and your family.

Here in Montana, our special and unique constitution guarantees that private decisions made between a healthcare provider and a patient should remain just that — private. It is important for Montanans to understand that if the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade, which protects the right to abortion under the federal Constitution, is overturned, Montana’s right to abortion will remain intact. That’s because the Montana Constitution protects this right, independently of what federal law provides.

After nearly 50 years of protecting the right to abortion, Roe v. Wade may soon be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. If that happens, many states are worried that they will soon face abortion bans. In Montana, however, politicians eager to ban abortion know that Montanans’ special constitutional privacy protection stands in the way of them being able to force pregnancy on Montanans against their will.

Montana’s governor and attorney general have been vocal in their blatant disdain for Montanan’ constitutional privacy protections and the ability to get the care they need. They are plotting ways to bypass, change, or outright eliminate the state’s strong right to abortion. Gov. Greg Gianforte recently appeared at anti-abortion rallies in support of efforts to strip away individual rights and impose draconian laws that will dictate our most private decisions. Attorney General Austin Knudsen recently asked the Montana Supreme Court to reverse its earlier decisions recognizing that Montana’s constitutional privacy provision protects the right to abortion.

The ACLU has consistently opposed attempts by politicians to infringe on people’s autonomy and privacy in making medical decisions. As far back as 1965, the ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Griswold v. Connecticut, which addressed a state prohibition on the prescription, sale, or use of contraceptives, even for married couples. In a landmark ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the prohibition and recognized a right to privacy that surrounds intimate medical and family planning decisions. This case laid the groundwork for Roe v. Wade, a decision now in peril. We need to ensure that Montana’s own, unique state constitutional protection of privacy in medical decision-making is preserved, even should Roe be overturned.

As we have for more than half a century, the ACLU will continue to fight to prevent politicians from interfering in personal family matters and to ensure that the dignity of the individual is protected and upheld. We must all come together and speak up against the politicians who wish to debase, devalue, and degrade our constitution. You can join us in the fight by writing letters to Gov. Gianforte and Attorney General Knudsen. Tell them you will not stand to see our constitution and our access to essential healthcare attacked. You can talk to your family members, friends, and neighbors and remind them that privacy is a Montana value that must remain embedded in our state ethos.