Updated Jun 27, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Court temporarily blocks Utah's trigger ban that would have made abortions illegal

Advocates for abortion rights demonstrating outside the state capitol building in Salt Lake City, Utah, in May 2022.

Advocates for abortion rights outside the state capitol building in Salt Lake City, Utah, in May. Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

A court in Utah on Monday temporarily blocked Utah's "trigger" law on abortion, which had taken effect Friday after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and banned most abortions in the state.

Why it matters: Planned Parenthood Association of Utah (PPAU) argued in its lawsuit that the Utah Constitution protects a person's right to seek an abortion in the state.

  • Utah 3rd District Court Judge Andrew Stone said that "the immediate effects that will occur outweigh any policy issues of the state," and granted a temporary restraining order, which is effective for 14 days. A hearing will be set for a preliminary injunction.

PPAU claimed that Utah's Supreme Court has ruled that the state's constitution grants Utahns more expansive rights than those given under federal law and that the trigger law violated the state constitution.

  • The lawsuit argues that these expanded rights include their "right to determine the composition of their families and whether and when to become parents; their entitlement to be free from discriminatory state laws that perpetuate stereotypes about women and their proper societal role," among others.
  • PPAU said it has had to cancel appointments for roughly a dozen patients on Saturday and that appointments with more than 55 patients scheduled for next week risk being canceled if a restraining order is not issued.

What they're saying: “Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated a federal constitutional right. In one terrible moment, Roe v. Wade was overturned, and Utahns’ power to control their own bodies, lives, and personal medical decisions was threatened,” Karrie Galloway, president and CEO of PPAU, said in a statement Saturday.

  • “Yesterday’s decision was devastating, but Planned Parenthood will never stop standing with and fighting for the rights of our patients and providers. Not now, not ever," Galloway added.

The big picture: Utah is currently one of seven states that have banned most abortions through trigger laws following the Supreme Court's decision, but more bans are expected within the next 30 days.

  • In overturning Roe, the Supreme Court granted states the legal authority to ban the procedure at any point in pregnancy — including at fertilization.
  • Utah's trigger law carves out abortion exceptions if the life or health of the woman is at risk, for cases of rape and incest that are reported to law enforcement, and if there are confirmed lethal birth defects present.
  • The trigger law makes it a second-degree felony to perform an abortion in nearly every case, at any stage in pregnancy.

But, but, but: Exceptions for birth defects and health threats to the mother are so narrowly written that they will not actually protect patients in most medical complications, doctors and legal experts told Axios' Erin Alberty.

  • Victims of sexual assault may obtain abortions only if they have made a police report — which eliminates the vast majority of victims.

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Editor's note: This story has been updated with a court ruling blocking the trigger law.

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