Highest Level of Practice Advanced practice registered nurses, often referred to as APRNs, are registered nurses who have completed additional education, including at least a master’s degree. The plaintiffs said they had the potential to be fully medically qualified to perform safe abortions and that the state had no good reason to ban them from doing so.
In an opinion written by Judge Laurie McKinnon, the court said the Montana Constitution “guarantees a woman the fundamental right of privacy to seek abortion care from a qualified health care provider in her choice, in the absence of a clear demonstration by a recognized doctor, a real health risk.” This referred to the lack of clear evidence of a medically recognized, bona fide health risk. They said there was “overwhelming evidence presented in the district court that abortion care is one of the safest forms of medical care in this country and in the world, and that APRNs are providers qualified”. This statement was made in reference to the fact that APRNs are qualified healthcare professionals.
The judgment went on to say that “the State has presented no evidence demonstrating that abortions performed by APRNs carry more risk than those provided by physicians or PAs.” “The state has not identified any reason why APRNs should be restricted from providing abortions” and “the state has not posited a bona fide medically recognized health risk,” respectively.
The court opinion highlighted a 1999 decision generally known as the Armstrong decision. This ruling established that the state constitution’s right to privacy guaranteed access to abortion before a fetus was viable. In the Armstrong case, judges struck down legislation that prohibited medical assistants from performing abortions using similar legal arguments. After that, the Montana Legislature made changes to this law, resulting in the current version that is in question.
The Montana attorney general’s office argued that the state law was a legitimate rule that was intended to reduce the health and safety hazards associated with abortions. They said that if the law was not in place, it would be far too simple for an APRN that lacked the required skills to start providing abortion services.
Emilee Cantrell, spokesperson for the Montana Department of Justice, said in a statement that the state Supreme Court had become “scandalously radicalized” and “out of touch with Montana people.” “This case was not about abortion rights – it was about whether women are entitled to a high standard of care during an abortion.” “This case was not about abortion rights.” The Montana Supreme Court ruled “no” and lowered the standard of care that had been established by the legislature. As a result, the court effectively entrenched the right of unqualified people to perform unregulated abortions. The decision is a setback for women in Montana, who are now at greater risk due to the actions of the state Supreme Court.
Attorney General Austin Knudsen and Governor Greg Gianforte argued that the decision in the Armstrong case was incorrect and asked the Supreme Court to overturn its precedent on the matter.
Whitefish is home to the medical facility known as All Families Healthcare, which is run by Helen Weems, one of the APRNs behind this lawsuit. As of 2019, Weems has been able to perform abortions following the Montana Supreme Court’s decision to allow a preliminary injunction against state legislation to remain in effect. According to documents filed with the court, the other APRN is named Jane Doe.
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