Planned Parenthood Makes Legal Move To Thwart Abortion Ban In Utah

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Planned Parenthood Association of Utah has filed a lawsuit hoping to undo the implementation of the state’s new abortion ban that went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Utah was one of the more than a dozen states that passed so-called trigger bans on abortion designed to become active if Roe was overturned. Some of those previously passed bans required that certain procedural steps be taken before they went into force, but anti-abortion officials in states with such a set-up quickly started the process. Utah’s trigger law “went into effect Friday after the Legislature’s general counsel certified that the Supreme Court decision met the legal requirements for triggering it,” The Salt Lake Tribune reported. In Missouri, another state with a trigger ban, it was “minutes” after the Roe decision dropped that Attorney General Eric Schmitt took a procedural step needed for the state’s abortion ban to go into effect, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

There are rare exceptions to the abortion ban now active in Utah, including cases involving rape or incest, or where an abortion would save the life of a pregnant individual or keep them from sustaining serious bodily impairment. Exceptions for rape and incest aren’t models of compassion, however — the process of a victim going over details of what happened before receiving an abortion could leave them with psychological trauma beyond what they already suffered. The Utah ban also allows for abortions if two doctors conclude the fetus has a “uniformly lethal” defect.

The new lawsuit challenging Utah’s abortion ban alleges it violates an array of rights protected by the state constitution. The case argues “that the rights promised under the Utah Constitution are more expansive than those under federal law, and remain unaffected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision,” as a Planned Parenthood press release explains. Dozens of abortion appointments in Utah have already been cancelled, and Planned Parenthood isn’t presently accepting new Utah appointments, since there’s obviously no sure path to overturning the Utah state ban. “Abortion services in Utah are now paused while Planned Parenthood litigates with the hope of restoring services as soon as possible,” a statement on the Utah branch of Planned Parenthood’s website says. “If you have an appointment already scheduled, our staff will be reaching out to you about your options.”

The Planned Parenthood press release summarizes the rights at issue as the ability of pregnant people in Utah “to determine when and whether to have a family, and to determine what happens with their own bodies and lives.” Rights to equality, privacy, and religious freedom are also violated by the new abortion restrictions in Utah, the lawsuit claims. The case also lays out that it’s lower income people who could be most negatively impacted by the new abortion ban. Last year, nearly half the abortion patients served by Planned Parenthood in Utah reported making under 130 percent of the federal poverty level. In general, it’s those with greater financial resources who could find it most easy to go to another state to obtain an abortion if it’s banned in theirs. Adding the financial stress of raising a child to the living circumstances of those who might not even be financially able to temporarily head to a nearby state could be financially disastrous for affected individuals.