Jun 27, 2022 - News

Utahns react to abortion ban with protest and a lawsuit

Protesters at Utah Capitol.
Protesters gathered at the Utah Capitol on Friday. Photo: Kim Bojórquez/Axios

Thousands of Utahns marched and protested at the Utah Capitol on Friday and throughout the weekend over the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Why it matters: Utah is one of 13 states with a so-called trigger law. Lawmakers passed it in 2020 to ban abortions in the state, with few exceptions, once Roe v. Wade was overturned.

  • The court ruling gives states the power to enforce their own restrictions.
  • Utah's ban went into effect Friday evening.

Under the ban, abortions can only be performed if:

  • The pregnancy is a result of rape or incest and the physician verifies the incident has been reported to law enforcement.
  • The pregnancy would cause a "serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function" to the woman.
  • The fetus has a defect that is "uniformly diagnosable and uniformly lethal" as determined by two physicians.
  • To save the mother's life.
Protesters gather at Utah Capitol.
Protesters gathered at the Utah State Capitol on Friday. Photo: Kim Bojórquez/Axios

Middle school teacher Sarah Flores said she attended the protest because she couldn’t sit around her home and do nothing.

  • "Abortion is a human right," Flores said. "These kids — they are our future, and if they don't have the financial stability to take care of a child, they need to have access to abortion, and I'm going to fight for them."

Salt Lake City Councilmember Chris Wharton, who was also at the protest, said he was there to express solidarity for people whose rights were "significantly rolled back."

  • Wharton said the council had not yet discussed what actions they'll take, if any, in light of the state's ban.
  • "I'm sure that after today it is something that we will talk about," he tells Axios. "All of the council members and the mayor support access to health care, including reproductive care."

The other side: As protesters gathered outside the Utah Capitol, legislative leaders held a news conference defending the state’s law.

  • "I think we're on the right side of the issue. This issue is multifaceted," said Senate President Stuart Adams.
  • "I do trust women enough to control when they allow a man to ejaculate inside of them and to control that intake of semen," said state Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, one of the law's co-sponsors, in response to a text message she said she received accusing her of not trusting women to make decisions for themselves.
  • She later clarified that her comment did not refer to rape victims, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

After the protest, an "unhappy hour" was held at Beer Bar/Bar X, which donated $1 per draft beer sold to the Utah Abortion Fund, an organization that provides women with financial support to access to safe abortions.

The latest: The Planned Parenthood Association of Utah filed a lawsuit Saturday to halt the state’s ban.

  • "[Friday'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," Karrie Galloway, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, said in a statement.
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