After nine months and obvious slow walking by a judge in Missoula, we finally have movement on a case we’ve been tracking for the past six years. It’s the case of Planned Parenthood v. State, and it all began in 2012 when voters passed a ballot referendum sponsored by the Montana Family Foundation.

As you may recall, LR-120 was a ballot referendum that banned abortion providers like Planned Parenthood from performing abortions on minors without notifying their parents. It was later strengthened to require consent rather than simple notification. Planned Parenthood immediately filed suit to block the State from defending the law and won a preliminary injunction in Helena District Court. Attorney General Tim Fox appealed that decision, and it was overturned by the State Supreme Court in 2015.

That sent the case back to district court where it has languished for the past three years, finally ending up on the desk of Judge Karen Townsend of Missoula. Whoever said the “wheels of justice turn slowly” could use Judge Townsend as their poster child. This case has been fully briefed with motions pending for nearly nine months. Now we’re happy to report we have movement, sort of.

On April 23rd, Judge Townsend finally issued an order on the State’s motion to dismiss the case based on a lack of standing. This case has two plaintiffs: Planned Parenthood and their former medical director, Dr. Paul Henke, who died in 2017. It’s the State’s contention that Planned Parenthood has no standing to bring the suit, and since Dr. Henke was the only plaintiff WITH standing, and he’s now dead, the case should be dismissed.

The judge agreed that there was no longer a valid plaintiff, but gave Planned Parenthood 30 days to find a substitute for Dr. Henke. That window closes next Wednesday, at which point the State will be given two more weeks to respond to the motion to substitute.

You see what we mean by the wheels of justice turning slowly? If they went any slower, we’d be going backwards. It’s important to know that this ballot initiative passed by 71%. Conservatives, moderates and even some liberals agree: Surgery should not be performed on a minor without their parents’ knowledge.

In Montana we require parental consent for pierced ears or a tattoo. Why not for a risky medical procedure like an abortion?  Ironically, a bill to require parental consent for a minor to use a tanning bed was brought by a Missoula legislator who opposed parental consent for a minor to get an abortion. Her hypocrisy was pointed out several times during debate on the House floor.

Which raised a good point: Why is abortion treated as a sacred cow? Why do legislators who normally apply sound logic suddenly throw logic out the window when it comes to the subject of abortion? They do it because it’s a litmus test issue for those on the left, just as it is for those on the right. It’s as tough for a pro-life Democrat to get through a primary election as it is for a pro-abortion Republican. There are just some issues that are so heated that they will never be dealt with logically in a legislative setting. And it’s those types of issues that keep both parties true to their base.