May 1, 2023 - News

Utah waits for abortion ruling

Illustration of a caduceus with a gavel in the center.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A Utah judge delayed an expected ruling on Friday surrounding a law that would effectively prohibit abortion access in the state in most circumstances.

Driving the news: HB 467 is scheduled to take effect on Wednesday if permitted.

  • The law, signed by Gov. Spencer Cox in March, would allow only hospitals to provide abortions and prohibit clinics from operating after Jan. 1, 2024.
  • It would also bar the state from issuing licenses that allow abortion clinics to operate.
  • The law comes nearly a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

What they're saying: "It would not be fair at this point to shoot from the hip," Third District Court Judge Andrew Stone told the attorneys representing the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah and the state after hearing oral arguments on Friday.

  • Stone said he planned to issue the ruling next week.

Details: Hannah Swanson, an attorney for the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, which is challenging the law, argued the ban would have "devastating consequences for women and families across the state."

  • The state's Assistant Attorney General Lance Sorenson told the judge there's nothing in the law that would prevent abortion clinics from obtaining hospital licenses to operate.
  • "Hospitals are not similarly situated as abortion clinics," he said. "They operate under higher standards of care pursuant to the regulations. They have better emergency care — that's why [Planned Parenthood] transfers cases to hospitals annually for emergency care."

Yes, but: "Hospitals will not be able to fill the gap that is currently filled by Planned Parenthood and outpatient abortion providers in Utah," Swanson said, noting that 95% of abortions in the state are currently performed in clinics.

What's next: Planned Parenthood Association of Utah interim CEO and president Sarah Stoesz said their clinics would stop providing abortions starting Wednesday.

  • "We will continue to provide other services, so Planned Parenthood’s doors will stay open," she noted.

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