Decision is ‘based on protecting our providers and our patients,’ says PPMT President Martha Fuller
By Mara Silvers MONTANA FREE PRESS
BILLINGS — Planned Parenthood of Montana on July 30 told staff members the organization would stop providing medical abortion treatment to patients traveling from states where abortion is currently illegal, citing a rapidly changing legal landscape for providers and patients.
While abortion remains legal in Montana, abortion providers in the state are bracing for a surge in patients from other states. Three states bordering Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and North Dakota are expected to make abortion illegal in the coming weeks. South Dakota’s abortion ban went into effect last Friday, the same day Roe v. Wade was canceled.
News from politics quickly posted on Twitter after an internal email from PPMT President Martha Fuller was published by Missoula-based freelance journalist Hunter Pauli. The state’s Planned Parenthood affiliate confirmed the policy change to Montana Free Press Thursday afternoon.
According to Fuller’s internal email, any patient seeking a medical abortion in Montana will be asked to provide proof of residency to PPMT before their procedure. No list of acceptable documents was provided.
Patients in abortion-banning states, including South Dakota, can still obtain an in-clinic surgical abortion from Planned Parenthood of Montana, Fuller’s email said. Medical abortions are usually the first option for patients less than 11 weeks pregnant. Surgical abortions are usually performed in patients over 11 weeks pregnant.
Although Fuller didn’t explain the distinction between PPMT’s new policies for medical and surgical abortions in his email, the two procedures are different in essential ways. Surgical abortion is performed at a specific time and in one place, while medical abortion involves two doses of medication and can take place over several days. The latter procedure could allow an out-of-state patient to take a dose of medication in Montana before returning to their home state where abortion is prohibited. If the patient completed her abortion in that state, the possibility of legal action against the patient or the provider could increase.
South Dakota law, for example, states that anyone who administers, prescribes, or procures “any medicine, drug, or substance” for an abortion, except to save the life of the pregnant person, has committed a felony.
In the internal email, Fuller said the PPMT policy is related to the possibility of litigation.
“The risks of interstate service provision are currently less than clear, with the potential for civil and criminal actions to provide abortions in prohibiting states,” she said. “It was a difficult decision to make, and I want you to know that it is based on protecting our providers and our patients.” the country.
The change in policy prompted hundreds of critical responses on social mediawith some people accusing the Planned Parenthood affiliate of implementing the measure for fear of litigation.
“[I] understand the legal finagling and risk assessment here and what you have, but someone is going to have to have a backbone at some point and it might as well be planned parenthood,” wrote Twitter user Andrea Grimes.
PPMT Vice President of External Affairs Laura Terrill provided some additional details on the policy in response to questions emailed by the MTFP on Friday.
When asked if the policy is being replicated by other Planned Parenthood affiliates in other states where abortion remains legal, Terrill said PPMT “cannot speak” to the decisions of other groups.
“Planned Parenthood Affiliates are independent organizations that make their own operational decisions and risk assessments, based on their unique considerations,” she said. “Planned Parenthood of Montana has made the decision to suspend medical abortion for certain out-of-state patients to minimize potential risks to providers, health center staff, and patients in the face of a rapidly changing landscape. We continue to offer surgical abortion to all patients seeking care, whether they live in Montana or are from another state.
Terrill said PPMT’s decision was also made in light of the political climate in Montana and Republican elected officials who oppose abortion and seek to restrict procedures statewide.
“Montana is not Washington. Montana is not Oregon. We have no governor, no attorney general, no Department of [Public] Health and social services willing to protect abortion providers and the health and privacy of patients. In fact, we have the opposite,” Terrill said. “At this time, we believe this is the best way to ensure that out-of-state patients are not…afraid to access…essential follow-up care they may need in because of the intimidation and fear of the anti-abortion extreme. The politicians.”
Terrill did not provide a full list of documents PPMT would accept to determine a patient’s residency, but said the organization would accept state- or tribal-issued IDs and would “work in close collaboration with each patient to determine the documents to which he has access”.
Terrill did not respond directly to questions about whether the organization is reconsidering its policy. She reiterated that the organization “did not take this decision lightly.”
“Like other abortion providers, we are forced to make difficult operational decisions, due to the rapidly changing abortion access landscape in many states,” she said. . “We are closely monitoring the legal and service landscape in Montana and neighboring states and are committed to restarting medical abortion services for all out-of-state patients, if and when we are able to do so. TO DO.”