State Abortion Ban In Utah Temporarily Blocked By Judge

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Another of the so-called “trigger” laws designed to automatically or nearly automatically ban most abortions in the event Roe v. Wade was overturned has been temporarily blocked by a judge. Earlier, it was Louisiana; now, it’s Utah. Over a dozen states originally enacted trigger bans.

Third District Judge Andrew Stone in Salt Lake City issued a temporary restraining order — active for two weeks — that blocks the enforcement of the Utah trigger ban. He acted after a lawsuit was filed by the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, which has three clinics previously licensed to provide abortions in the state. Stone’s action allows abortions to resume in the state as litigation continues. He concluded the state’s trigger ban “upsets the longstanding status quo on which Utah women and their families have relied for at least five decades.”

“Without a temporary restraining order, the [ban] will cause irreparable harm to PPAU, its patients, and its staff… If left in place, the Act will force many Utahns to continue carrying a pregnancy that they have decided to end, with all of the physical, emotional, and financial costs that entails,” the judge concluded this week. Stone therefore sounds in agreement with points raised by the lawsuit: “If left in place, the Criminal Abortion Ban will be catastrophic for Utahns… The Act will force some Utahns seeking abortion to instead carry pregnancies to term against their will, with all of the physical, emotional, and financial costs that entails,” the case said.

The Utah trigger ban includes exceptions for cases in which an abortion would save the life of or prevent serious impairment to a pregnant person. It also has exceptions for cases involving a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, although such exceptions aren’t models of compassion: forcing victims to — before an abortion — go over details of what happened could leave them with additional psychological trauma. What if there’s some particularly complicating factor that makes reporting the offense end up feeling nearly impossible for the victim?

Karrie Galloway, who’s president and chief executive of the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, indicated to The Washington Post that her organization had prepared before Roe was overturned for the possibility of litigation to protect abortion access in their state. “We’ve been on notice for a while… We’ve been on notice since the last administration wiggled their way into three court nominations. We knew what was the writing on the walls,” as Galloway explained it.

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe left state officials allowed to regulate abortion according to their personal — and political — ambitions, setting up the opportunity for the implementation of measures like Utah’s trigger ban. Some of the abortion restrictions designed to become active only if Roe was overturned relied on certain procedural steps necessary before they could go into effect, but anti-abortion officials quickly started the process. In Utah, the state’s trigger ban originally went into effect last Friday night. Utah’s attorney general, governor, and lieutenant governor have all expressed support for the new direction of Utah’s handling of abortion with the trigger ban in place. “My office will do its duty to defend the state law against any and all potential legal challenges,” the state attorney general unequivocally stated.