Jul 12, 2022 - News

Utah's abortion ban will remain on hold after Monday hearing

Illustration of a caduceus with a gavel in the center.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Most abortions will remain legal in Utah while a lawsuit against the state's trigger ban is pending in court.

Driving the news: On Monday, Judge Andrew Stone agreed with Planned Parenthood that the state's ban on abortion should not be enacted until the lawsuit is resolved.

  • Stone's decision continues the temporary block he placed on Utah's ban a few days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

How it works: For Stone to keep blocking the ban, four conditions had to be met:

  • People would be irreparably harmed if the law went into effect.
  • That harm outweighs the state's goal to preserve fetal life.
  • Blocking the ban would not be against the public interest.
  • Planned Parenthood has a chance of winning the lawsuit.

Details: Stone agreed the ban would hurt patients seeking abortions by delaying their care — and leading some to try to end pregnancies dangerously, without a doctor's care.

  • He also noted that the state hasn't shown how many fetuses the ban would actually protect since patients could still go out of state.

What he said: "You're talking about a seismic change in women's health treatment. We [should] make an informed and careful decision before upsetting the ordinary medical treatment that has been in place in Utah for nearly 50 years."

Of note: The state's attorneys haven't disputed the potential harm to patients.

Planned Parenthood could win its lawsuit, Stone acknowledged — particularly on its argument that the ban violates the state constitution's provision for Utahns' freedom of conscience.

  • The wording — "The rights of conscience shall never be infringed" — is "pretty absolute," Stone noted.
  • "There are lots of different religious and secular views of what constitutes human life," he added. "This law selects a single view of that question and imposes it on everyone."

Yes, but: Stone stressed that he was not making a final decision on that argument, or any others — only that the constitutional questions are serious enough to warrant a closer look before imposing the ban on patients.

What's next: The ban will not take effect unless Planned Parenthood loses the case, or the state successfully appeals Monday's injunction to the higher court.

Bottom line: The state Supreme Court will almost certainly have the final word on the ban's constitutionality.

  • "We all know that this is going to head up there," Stone said. "And that's really who needs to ultimately make this constitutional determination: the Supreme Court."
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