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Montana Supreme Court permits proposed ballot that would embed abortion in state constitution to move forward

by | Mar 19, 2024

By Dave Andrusko

On a vote of 6-1, the Montana Supreme Court overturned a decision from Attorney General Austin Knudsen to block Ballot Issue 14 which would specifically protect access to abortion in the state constitution

“In a ruling Monday, six of the seven justices agreed the measure – informally called Ballot Issue 14 – did not violate the state’s requirement that unrelated changes to the constitution be voted on separately,” Jonathon Ambarian reported. “CI-14 specifies the right it creates and the limitations thereto, which constitutes a single change to the Constitution,” said the opinion, written by Justice Ingrid Gustafson.

Submitted by the committee “Montanans Securing Reproductive Rights” and backed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana, “It would add language to the state constitution, establishing ‘a right to make and carry out decisions about one’s own pregnancy, including the right to abortion,’” according to Ambarian [www.ktvh.com/news/montana-supreme-court-allows-proposed-abortion-ballot-measure-to-move-forward].

“The court ordered Knudsen to prepare ballot statements for the proposed amendment and forward them to the Secretary of State’s Office within five days – the next step toward allowing supporters of the measure to begin collecting signatures.”

Justice Jim Rice, the lone dissenter, argued that Knudsen  decision was justified. According to Ambarian, Justice Rice “said the ballot measure essentially created new definitions for some established legal concepts and created ‘internal conflict’ about how to balance the government’s authority to regulate and a patient’s right to make decisions.”

“The purpose of this review is to ‘avoid voter confusion . . . by ensuring proposals are not misleading or the effects of which are concealed or not readily understandable,’” Rice wrote. “While we have not previously held this purpose to be a standalone basis to reject an initiative, I believe it is clear that the provisions of CI-14 are not readily understood, have effects that are concealed, and would result in voter confusion this review is designed to prevent.”

Categories: State Legislation