HELENA – Two advanced-practice nurses, aided by the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana, filed suit Tuesday to strike down Montana’s law that allows only physicians and physician assistants to perform abortions.

One of them – Helen Weems – is planning next month to help re-open a Whitefish clinic that had performed abortions but was destroyed by vandals more than three years ago. It was the only abortion provider in the Flathead Valley.

The suit seeks to allow the soon-to-be-opened All Families Healthcare to perform abortions, said Caitlin Borgmann, executive director of the ACLU of Montana – as well as expand abortion services across the state.

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“In a state as large and sparsely populated as Montana, it’s common sense to expand access to safe abortion care by allowing (advance-practice nurses) to provide this much-needed health care service,” she said.

Attorneys for the ACLU of Montana and the Center for Reproductive Rights, based in New York, filed the lawsuit in state District Court in Helena.

The suit asks the court to void the law as an unconstitutional infringement on privacy rights and to block its enforcement while the case proceeds through court.

“Barring (advance-practice nurses) from providing abortion care within their scope of practice is inconsistent with Montana Supreme Court precedent,” the suit said. “Barring (them) from providing abortion care also contributes to and exacerbates limited access in the state.”

Besides Weems, the other plaintiff is an unnamed nurse midwife who practices in Montana and who provides procedures more complex than abortion, but who is barred from offering abortion services, the lawsuit said.