MISSOULA, Mont. — While a draft opinion leaked Monday shows the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn the 50-year-old landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, the ACLU of Montana says access to abortions in the state will stay the same unless changed at the state level.
“Montana would not immediately lose access to abortion, because Montana has its own decision from the Montana Supreme Court that is essentially Montana’s Roe v. Wade,” said Caitlin Borgmann, executive director of the ACLU of Montana.
She’s talking about the 1999 Armstrong decision, a 23-year-old precedent that says the state constitution’s right to privacy guarantees a woman’s access to abortion. That’s being challenged right now in the Montana Supreme Court.
In 2021, the legislature passed four bills changing access to abortion in the state. Following a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood of Montana, three of those are on hold.
“There has been no compelling reason by the state as to why the Montana Supreme Court should overturn its decision in Armstrong v. State, which they have reaffirmed as recently as 2019,” said Borgmann. “I don't expect that there would be any immediate impact in Montana.”
That’s not the case in surrounding states. Idaho, Wyoming and North and South Dakota have a “trigger ban,” which means abortion bans go into effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Montana doesn’t have such a law.
“Abortion is a fundamental human right,” said Borgmann. “That is what the Supreme Court decided in Roe v. Wade, that is what's protected under the federal Constitution, and that is why it has been found to be protected under the constitutional right to privacy in the Montana Constitution Declaration of Rights.”
Some Republicans in the state are calling for a rewrite of the constitution, though Borgmann says she would be surprised if the Montana Supreme Court walked back on its earlier affirmations of the Armstrong decision.
“This is a momentous decision if the Supreme Court decides to overturn it at the federal level. Of course we don't know if that's going to happen yet, but if it does, it will be a tremendous step back for fundamental human rights that billions of people have relied on since 1972,” said Borgmann.
The Center for Reproductive Rights laid out what would happen in Montana if Roe was overturned. You can view the information here: