Utah judge blocks state's sweeping new abortion ban

3 minute read
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

July 11 (Reuters) - A state court judge in Utah on Monday blocked a sweeping new abortion ban from taking effect following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last month eliminating the nearly 50-year-old constitutional right to abortion.

Judge Andrew Stone of the Third Judicial District Court for Salt Lake City ruled at a hearing that the ban, which prohibited abortion at any point during pregnancy with some exceptions, must remain on hold while Planned Parenthood pursues a legal challenge.

"When you're talking about a seismic change in women's health treatment, it's prudent to look before you leap," Stone said.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

A spokesperson for the office of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes declined to comment.

Planned Parenthood had sued the state on June 25, the day after the abortion ban originally took effect, arguing that the law violated rights to bodily integrity and privacy recognized by Utah's constitution. Stone on June 27 temporarily blocked the law until he could hear arguments on it.

Julie Murray, a lawyer for Planned Parenthood, said at Monday's argument that without a court order preserving abortion rights in Utah during the lawsuit, thousands of Utahns would be deprived of necessary abortion services.

"The state has produced no evidence to rebut the wide-ranging harms that the ban will cause," she said.

Tyler Green, a lawyer for the state, said the original meaning of the state constitution did not include any right to abortion.

"The legislature can make decisions as it sees fit ... as long as it's not infringing on a constitutional right," he said.

Utah was one of 13 states that imposed an immediate ban on abortions under a so-called "trigger law." Such laws were designed to take effect when the Supreme Court overruled its 1973 precedent in Roe v. Wade recognizing a constitutional right to abortion, which it did on June 24. Under the law, health care providers face arrest and criminal fines for providing abortions.

About half of U.S. states are ultimately expected to restrict or ban abortion after the Supreme Court's decision. Many have faced legal challenges, but most of those have been unsuccessful, with courts allowing new laws to take effect in states including Mississippi, Texas and Florida.

Utah's ban included exceptions if the mother was at risk of death or permanent injury and for severe fetal abnormalities. It also included an exception in cases of rape or incest, but only if they are reported to the police.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien, Jonathan Oatis and Josie Kao

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Brendan Pierson reports on product liability litigation and on all areas of health care law. He can be reached at brendan.pierson@thomsonreuters.com.