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State says unborn have 'inherent, inalienable rights' in Utah constitution

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Posted at 2:53 PM, Jul 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-08 22:31:01-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Unborn children have "inherent and inalienable rights" protected by Utah's constitution, the state argued in new court filings.

"These are precisely the types of policy judgments about abortion that 'the Constitution' leaves 'to the people’s elected representatives,'" Utah Solicitor General Melissa Holyoak wrote in a motion to deny a request for a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit challenging the state's elective abortion ban.

In the filing, the state argued that abortion has been criminalized in Utah dating back to when it was a territory.

"The Utah Territorial Legislature passed its first criminal ban on abortion in 1876. Then in 1898, when adopting Utah’s first state code, the first Utah State Legislature—filled with members who had just participated in Utah’s 1895 Constitutional Convention—recodified that criminal abortion ban, and even expanded it to make women criminally liable for obtaining an abortion and to make abortion professional misconduct by physicians and surgeons. Those statutes remained virtually unchanged in Utah’s code until 1973 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade," Holyoak wrote.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Utah are suing the state, challenging its ban on elective abortions. They have argued that a provision of Utah's constitution guarantees equal rights. In response, the state argued that was for political matters related to suffrage and not abortion.

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Utah's trigger law went into effect. The lawsuit was filed and a judge in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court granted a temporary restraining order, blocking it from being enforced. A hearing is scheduled Monday on whether or not to keep the injunction in place while the litigation is pending.

Read the filing here: