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March 8, 2018

The Center for Reproductive Rights and the ACLU of Montana will be in state district court today in their lawsuit challenging an outdated and unconstitutional law that puts advanced practice registered nurses at risk of felony criminal prosecution for safely providing abortion care. The CRR and ACLU-MT are representing Helen Weems, an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, and Jane Doe, a Certified Nurse-Midwife, in Lewis and Clark County District Court.

Leading medical and public health authorities such as the World Health Organization, the Food and Drug Administration, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agree that APRNs can provide abortions as safely as physicians. Unfortunately, under Montana law, only physicians and physician assistants can legally provide abortion care.

“In 1999, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that Montanans have the constitutional right to obtain health care services, including abortion, from the qualified health care provider of their choice,” said ACLU of Montana Executive Director Caitlin Borgmann.

After this decision, the Montana legislature passed a law that allows only physicians and physician assistants to provide abortions.

“This law is inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s decision,” explained Borgmann. “It is time for Montana law to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling and to reflect what the evidence shows: APRNs are well-qualified to provide safe and effective abortion care.”

“Especially in underserved and rural areas, APRNs are often Montanans’ primary source for health care,” said plaintiff Helen Weems.  “Basic health care includes the ability to decide when and whether to bear a child. This law serves no medical purpose and prevents Montanans from accessing the quality health care they need.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights and the ACLU of Montana are asking the court to block the law from being enforced until the court issues a final decision in the case.

The Center for Reproductive Rights’ Hillary Schneller, who will present the argument in court, and the ACLU of Montana’s Caitlin Borgmann (Executive Director) and Alex Rate (Legal Director), are available for interviews.