Utah Legislature Approves Bill Banning Abortions on Babies After 18 Weeks

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 14, 2019   |   2:53PM   |   Salt Lake City, UT

A Utah bill to protect unborn babies from abortion after 18 weeks is on its way to Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk.

On Wednesday, House Bill 136 passed the state Senate in a 23-6 vote, after it passed the House in February, Deseret News reports. Sponsored by state Rep. Cheryl Acton, the legislation would put Utah law in line with most other countries on abortion. The U.S. is one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks.

Herbert, a pro-life Republican, has not said if he will sign the bill. However, last month, he did mention that “that scientific advancements may warrant another look at abortion laws,” according to the report.

Soon after the vote, however, the Utah branch of the American Civil Liberties Union promised to file a lawsuit if the bill becomes law.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held for over 40 years that states may not ban abortion prior to viability,” the pro-abortion legal group said in a statement. “The court has also made clear that states are prohibited from drawing a line at a particular number of weeks to establish fetal viability. When the Utah Legislature passed a law in the early 1990s to ban abortions after 20 weeks, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it was unconstitutional. This means legal challenges to HB136 have direct case law, on point, within our circuit, that pre-viability abortion restrictions are unconstitutional.”

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Many states have abortion bans that protect unborn children after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which is the most they are able to do considering the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to allow states to ban abortions entirely. But a few states are pushing the envelope by banning abortion starting at 15 or 18 weeks. Arkansas recently passed a similar bill. Other states are pursuing heartbeat bills to ban abortions as early as six weeks.

It is unclear if the legislation would be upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. The current precedent prohibits states from passing abortion restrictions prior to viability.

In February, Utah lawmakers also passed a bill to protect unborn babies with Down syndrome from discrimination-based abortions.