Planned Parenthood of Montana will no longer provide medication abortions for patients from South Dakota, Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma, and will now require proof of residency for the treatment, according to an internal email obtained by The Daily Beast.
In a Thursday morning email to the state’s staff, Montana Planned Parenthood President and CEO Martha Fuller attributed the new rules for non-surgical abortions to the “rapidly changing” legal landscape around the right to choose. The change came less than a week after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortions nationwide, raising the prospect of crackdowns by states with harsh abortion bans—and attempts at prosecution across state lines.
The email was first reported on Twitter by journalist Hunter Pauli.
“As a healthcare provider, we must identify and mitigate risks constantly,” Fuller said in the email. “The risks around cross-state provision of services are currently less than clear, with the potential for both civil and criminal action for providing abortions in states with bans. As we move forward, and learn more about risks, we will be offering guidance and implementing any necessary changes in policies and procedures for abortion care.”
According to the email, the state affiliate’s restriction only applies to medication abortion, a two-pill regimen that can be performed either in a clinic or a location of the patient’s choosing. The email makes it clear that the provider intends to continue offering surgical abortion services to out-of-state patients, even if their home state has banned abortion.
“Let’s be clear: Planned Parenthood of Montana will continue to serve patients from out of state who are seeking abortion,” Fuller said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe, we must make decisions around the provision of abortion care in consideration of the rapidly changing landscape for abortion access across the country and amid the cruel intention of anti-abortion politicians to sow chaos and confusion. No matter what, Planned Parenthood of Montana will do whatever we can to protect patients, providers, and health center staff. Access to abortion in Montana remains constitutionally protected and is available.”
Some states have effectively moved to outlaw medication abortion following the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which imperiled access to all forms of the procedure for roughly 40 million women and girls in nearly two-dozen states. Immediately after the ruling, 13 states began the process of imposing severe restrictions on all abortion—or banning it outright—by way of preemptively-passed “trigger laws.”
An abortion ban in South Dakota is currently in effect, and bans in nearby states like Wyoming and North Dakota are expected to be enacted soon, as the email notes. Other states—including Utah and Idaho—have pre-Roe bans that remain on the books, or else have passed subsequent anti-abortion measures that have been blocked by federal courts. (As the email notes, the ban in Utah has been held up in court.)
That abortion providers face an array of new legal challenges across the country after the Dobbs ruling is clear. But the move by Planned Parenthood raises the prospect of providers in legal states backing off some forms of reproductive care for fear of cross-state imbroglios. Despite its red-state status, Montana’s Supreme Court established the right to abortion as a pillar of privacy in a 1999 ruling.
The move also comes just days after Fuller released a statement insisting her affiliate would fight against any efforts to limit abortion in the area; Fuller added that the organization anticipates “additional patients from outside of Montana.”
“We will end up in a country where we have this patchwork of states where access to abortion is available and states where it's not, and you know, already I can see the chaos that is beginning to happen,” Fuller said last Friday.
But in the Thursday email, Fuller explains that parents from South Dakota or any other states with total bans currently in effect will only have access to surgical abortions in the state and “will not be able to receive medical abortion services” at Planned Parenthood of Montana. The email goes on to list several other states that fall under this criteria, including three whose trigger laws have gone into effect in Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. Patients past the six-week mark from Ohio and Texas—which as a cut-off for abortion bans— will also be denied medical abortions, the email says.
“In order to comply with this change, we will be asking all MAB patients to provide proof of residency,” the email continues. “We do not enter into this lightly, and recognize that this change disproportionately impacts indigenous patients.”
Fuller added that staff will soon be trained on the various proof of residency forms that will be accepted—and that they “may not be able to identify all acceptable forms of proof immediately.”
“As the landscape changes, we will be sure to update you all with information on which states’ residents will be impacted,” Fuller added in the email. “We will be monitoring the legal landscape and consulting with the legal council on this and all other risks. This was a hard decision to make, and I want you to know that it is based on protecting our providers and patients.”
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