Jul 11, 2022 - News

Utah's abortion ban could go back into effect soon

Illustration of a caduceus turning into a gavel.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A Utah judge could reinstate the state's pending abortion ban as early as Monday.

  • A hearing is scheduled for 1pm.

Driving the news: Planned Parenthood is asking the court to keep blocking Utah's abortion ban until there is a final decision on whether it violates the state's constitution.

  • Judge Andrew Stone temporarily blocked the state's "trigger law" three days after it went into effect in June when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
  • If Stone sides with Planned Parenthood, many abortions could remain legal in Utah for months.

Meanwhile: Almost all abortions are still banned after 18 weeks in Utah under a 2019 law that also took effect after the Roe reversal.

Planned Parenthood's lawsuit against Utah's ban argues that courts have said Utah's constitution can provide more expansive protection for rights — including abortion — than the U.S. constitution does.

  • It points in particular to post-Roe decisions that highlight Utahns' rights to "bodily integrity" and to make decisions about their own families.

Details: In its request for a longer injunction against the ban, Planned Parenthood stresses the time sensitivity of abortion for patients who are seeking it.

The other side: State officials, who argue the ban should take effect now, say abortion bans can't be unconstitutional because until Roe was decided in 1973, Utah had banned abortion under territorial law and since its early years of statehood.

  • The state also argues Planned Parenthood doesn't have the standing to challenge the ban because it is a provider, not a patient.
  • Although the state ban criminalizes abortion for only providers, Planned Parenthood’s constitutional arguments chiefly deal with the loss of rights to patients.

What we're watching: In his earlier order temporarily blocking the ban, Stone agreed Utahns will be "irreparably harmed" if they're denied abortions and there are "serious constitutional questions" at stake.

  • But he could reverse that order based on the arguments since then.
  • If he doesn't, his decision could focus on whether Planned Parenthood has the standing to sue for other people’s rights.

Zoom out: Courts can reverse course on whether a challenged law can take effect while lawsuits are pending.

The bottom line: Preliminary injunctions usually move fast because the point is to protect people who will be affected while the larger legal questions are unresolved.


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