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More delays as Montana AG fights to lift 9-year-old injunction against parental consent law

by | May 2, 2022

By Dave Andrusko

A week ago today we wrote about a clearly frustrated Attorney General Austin Knudsen, indignant that Montana’s parental consent law for minors seeking abortions had been delayed for going on nine years.

“The State moves to dissolve the preliminary injunction in this case,” said the April 20 motion. “It’s been 3,181 days since the consent injunction was entered. That’s eight years, eight-and-a-half months, or 104.5 months, or 34.8 trimesters since the State agreed to a preliminary injunction because it was confident the case would be decided quickly.”

Well, on Friday Judge Chris Abbott delayed a resolution yet again, offering the fig leaf that that the case will resolved soon. (The next hearing is scheduled for June.)

“He also pointed out that if he lifted the injunction, Planned Parenthood would likely appeal and that process might take longer than getting a ruling on the full case,” according to reporter Holly Michels.

“Unlike the past three years of inaction, an end to this court’s proceedings is now in sight,” Abbott wrote in his order. “The prospect of indefinite limbo has ended.”

Spokesperson Emilee Cantrell said in an email to Michels, “The previous administration should not have consented — for even a day — to enjoin this commonsense law that protects young girls from sexual assault and abuse.” But “We’re glad that Judge Abbott will finally rule on the merits of the case in June after nearly a decade of inaction from numerous other Montana judges.”

As Cantrell implied the constant delays were a function of the previous attorney general’s decision to agree to a temporary restraining order. Michels wrote.

Back in 2013, the Montana Attorney General who backed the law agreed to a preliminary injunction halting its enforcement in an effort to avoid a hectic legal schedule and because everyone expected a quick resolution in the case.

But that’s not what happened in Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit the state of Montana, which instead spent much of the last decade bouncing from judge to judge and through different court districts, and even saw the death of a plaintiff.

In his order, Judge Abbott wrote, “The court recognizes the legitimate frustration about how long it has taken to answer the question of whether these statutes are constitutional.” He added, “For better or worse, however, the state agreed to the rules of the game when it started, and under the facts here, the passage of time alone is not enough to justify changing those rules as the ninth inning approaches.”

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