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Judge grants temporary restraining order, blocking Utah's abortion ban

Posted at 12:12 PM, Jun 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-27 23:43:53-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A judge has granted a restraining order that will temporarily block Utah's abortion "trigger law" for 14 days.

Following an emergency hearing on Monday, 3rd District Court Judge Andrew Stone granted Planned Parenthood Association of Utah and the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah's request for a temporary injunction.

"The immediate effects that will occur outweigh any policy interest of the state in stopping abortions immediately," Judge Stone said. "Doctors here are threatened with felonies. Affected women are deprived of safe, local medical treatments to terminate pregnancies."

But Judge Stone cautioned the ruling was only temporary. He has scheduled another hearing in a couple of weeks to determine whether or not the injunction should stand and pointed out the case could go all the way to the Utah Supreme Court.

Planned Parenthood is one of two abortion providers in the state, their attorney said. Since Friday, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Utah's trigger law went into effect, Planned Parenthood has had to turn away dozens of people seeking abortions. FOX 13 News first reported on Saturday that the ACLU and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit, challenging Utah's ban on elective abortions.

"There are a range of emotional, physical, financial consequences of patients of remaining pregnant," Planned Parenthood's attorney, Julie Murray, argued to the judge.

Utah's abortion trigger law passed in 2020, contingent upon Roe v. Wade being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. It bans abortions in the state, with exceptions for rape and incest, the health and safety of the mother, or fetal viability.

Tyler Green, an attorney hired by the state to represent them in the legal challenge, argued Utah has an interest in protecting the lives of "unborn citizens." He also told Judge Stone the Utah State Constitution has no right to an abortion.

"In our view, talking about the likelihood of success which we view is a critical component of any sort of inquiry into a [temporary restraining order], there is not any language the plaintiffs point to that uses the word abortion explicitly," he argued.

But Murray countered that Utah's constitution does have an equal rights amendment.

"There are lots of things that are protected under these concepts of equal rights," she said.

Judge Stone's ruling allows abortions to resume in Utah immediately. On Utah's Capitol Hill, lawmakers reacted to the restraining order.

"Statistically 8.2 babies are aborted every day in Utah. Sadly, Judge Stone sentenced 115 babies to death. It’s disappointing that a law meant to protect the most vulnerable, the unborn, is delayed by one judge with no support in the law," the trigger law's sponsor, Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, said in a statement. "I'm confident that Utah’s abortion ban will be upheld, and we can work to support life."

Senate President J. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said Utah will still defend the new law.

"The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to return regulations to the states was the correct choice. I look forward to Utah defending its law that prohibits elective abortion except in the case of rape, incest or medical emergency, standing up for those who cannot defend themselves. I believe Utah's law will prevail," he said in a statement.

House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said he was confident the trigger law would be found constitutional "but will watch as the judicial process plays out as it’s designed to."

Governor Spencer Cox's office said they would not comment on the litigation but will watch closely the ongoing legal process.