On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark women’s health case, triggering state laws banning or restricting abortion procedures in many states, including Utah. Now the courts are sorting out just which law will be in effect in the state.
In 2020, the Utah State Legislature passed Senate Bill 174 which is a ban on all abortion procedures with exceptions for rape, incest, cases where physicians detect a fatal defect in the fetus, and cases that threaten the mother’s life and health.
That law was written to automatically go into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court verdict, but Third District Judge Andrew Stone issued an injunction blocking the ban for 14 days to allow courts to hear any challenges.
Planned Parenthood of Utah and the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah have filed a lawsuit contending that Senate Bill 174 violates the state constitution’s equal protection and privacy provisions.
While the courts hear arguments on Senate Bill 174, legal experts say an older state law is now in effect despite reservations about its legal viability.
In 2019, state legislators passed HB136, a ban on abortions after 18 weeks of gestation with exceptions for rape, incest, to save the life of the mother, to prevent the permanent impairment of the mother, and in the case of a fatal fetal defect or severe brain abnormality. That law was blocked by a federal judge after a lawsuit, but the injunction was lifted on Monday.
The Utah Attorney General’s office confirmed that the 18-week ban in HB136 is the current law in the state.
According to 2019 statistics from the Utah Department of Health’s Office of Vital Records and Statistics, most of the 2,922 abortion procedures in the state took place at seven or eight weeks of gestation.
In a statement, Planned Parenthood Association of Utah said they were focused on challenging the total ban contained in Senate Bill 174.
“Rest assured, PPAU still has a right to challenge the 18-week ban in a future case,” wrote Planned Parenthood Utah President Karrie Galloway. “For now, we are focused on challenging the trigger ban in state court and doing all we can to provide care to our patients.”
In contrast to Utah’s trigger law, neighboring Colorado this spring passed a law protecting abortion rights. In April Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which recognizes the right of pregnant people to decide whether to carry to term or have an abortion.