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Utah's abortion "trigger law" remains on hold as judge grants injunction

Posted at 11:42 AM, Jul 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-11 19:46:48-04

SALT LAKE CITY  — A judge has granted a preliminary injunction othat will keep Utah's abortion "trigger law" on hold.

"There is a reasonable argument here that the Act violates some right to bodily integrity," 3rd District Judge Andrew Stone said of Utah's law that bans elective abortions.

The judge's ruling means the law will be blocked from being enforced while the litigation moves forward. Judge Stone had previously granted a temporary restraining order that was good for 14 days and Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Utah had requested it be extended.

The Utah Attorney General's Office said it would seek an immediate appeal with the Utah Supreme Court to overturn the judge's decision.

Utah's abortion trigger law bans all elective abortions with exceptions for the health and safety of a mother, fetal viability or in cases of rape or incest. The new law, which passed in 2020, went into effect once the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and determined states could set policies on abortion. Planned Parenthood and the ACLU sued.

"Thousands of pregnant Utahns and their families will be harmed as a result of Utah’s criminal abortion ban," argued Julie Murray, an attorney for Planned Parenthood.

They argued Utah's law violates the state constitution, which has an equal rights provision.

In a court filing, lawyers for Planned Parenthood and the ACLU included statements from three women who currently are seeking abortions in Utah. The women, who filed affidavits under pseudonyms, described their reactions to learning of their pregnancies and their desires to seek abortions.

"I actually first suspected I was pregnant on the same day I first heard about Utah’s abortion ban," said a woman who went by "Ann Moe" in the affidavit.

The Sevier County woman described her personal circumstances that she said do not allow her to care for another child, the burden of having to travel for an abortion and being told she may not be able to obtain one if the judge let the injunction lapse.

"I believe strongly in advocating for families and their right to choose what is best for them, because it is no one’s business but their own. Nobody should be prevented from doing what is right for the benefit of their family. I have decided that the right decision for me and my family is an abortion, and I support Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit to protect patients like me," she wrote.

"Alex Roe" said that she is in her mid-30s in Weber County and also does not have the financial means to care for another child. She wrote that she may travel out of state to seek an abortion, but "I would worry about being out of work and falling short on rent."

"Utah’s abortion ban makes me feel repressed, like people who don’t know me are keeping me down. I am angry that these people want to make this decision for me. I was doing everything I could to not be in this position. I was using condoms and had made an appointment to have my tubes tied. Despite all of that, this happened to me, and I just want to have an abortion as soon as I can," Alex Roe wrote in the affidavit.

"Jane Doe," who is in her 20s and lives in Salt Lake City, said she does not have social or family support to have a baby.

"I am not ready to have kids. I can barely take care of myself. I can’t take care of another human being. I don’t make enough money, and I would not have financial support from my family if I had a child. I want to be able to finish school, I want to go on to have a career. I would not be able to finish my degree if I had a child. I would not be able to work as easily if I had a child. Carrying a pregnancy to term would set me back in terms of work that I’ve done to establish my life," Doe wrote in the affidavit.

In its own filing with the court, the Utah Attorney General's Office argued against the restraining order. The state says abortion has been criminalized in Utah as far back as 1876 (but laws were overturned when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade). The state maintains unborn children have "inherent and inalienable" rights under the Utah Constitution.

"The recourse that citizens have when those types of laws are passed, is to vote the bums out of office. If they don’t like them, that’s how you get rid of them," said Tyler Green, an attorney representing the state.

In his ruling, the judge did not indicate if Planned Parenthood or the ACLU would prevail, but said the questions deserve to be litigated.

"It is at least a reasonable argument to extend whether to have a child to family decisions and family rights such as the relationship to parent and child," Judge Stone said. "There is likely some right to privacy implicit under the Utah Constitution. It hasn’t been fleshed out well. There’s another question there whether an abortion is included in that right of privacy."

Read the affidavits here: