A judge has blocked a pro-life law that protects unborn babies by ending abortion facility licenses throughout the state.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed the pro-life law recently after the state legislature passed it by an overwhelming majority in March.
Aborting unborn babies is still legal in Utah due to a court order blocking its abortion ban, but this new law effectively could ban elective abortions while that lawsuit continues. However, a judge has blocked this law too even though the Supreme Court gave states latitute to protect babies from abortions.
Judge Andrew Stone’s decision to grant Planned Parenthood’s request will allow the fourcenters that kill babies in abortions to continue operating. The law would have stopped abortion businesses from getting licences on Wednesday and ended existing licences by the end of the year.
Essentuially this makes it so the state is waiting on the Utah Supreme Court to rule whether the trigger law banning abortions can be enforced.
“The plaintiff has persuasively argued that ‘[t]he balance of equities and public interest … decisively weigh in [the plaintiff’s] favor,’” wrote 3rd District Court Judge Andrew Stone — who also pulled the brake on the trigger law after Planned Parenthood Association of Utah filed a lawsuit last summer — in his order Tuesday.
The decision comes just hours before the new law — Rep. Karianne Lisonbee’s HB467, called “Abortion Changes” — was scheduled to take effect on Wednesday.
Utah’s abortion trigger ban, which passed in 2020, went into effect in June 2022 after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade. Stone stopped it with a restraining order a few days later, and eventually with a preliminary injunction.
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Sponsored by state Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, House Bill 467 prohibits abortion facilities from operating in Utah starting in 2024 and prohibits state authorities from granting licenses to abortion facilities after May 2. However, it also requires abortions that are allowed under the law to be performed in hospitals, basically making current abortion facilities’ licenses meaningless.
Lisonbee recently said her legislation “strikes the very best balance of protecting innocent life and protecting women who experience rare and dangerous circumstances.”
Currently, Utah has four abortion facilities, including the Wasatch Women’s Center in Salt Lake City and three Planned Parenthoods. It is not clear if any of them plan to file lawsuits attempting to block the law.
Along with banning abortion facilities, the bill also requires doctors to provide information about perinatal hospice and palliative care to pregnant mothers whose unborn babies are diagnosed with a fatal condition. It also prohibits abortions after 18 weeks in cases of rape and incest, and allows doctors who abort unborn babies in violation of state laws to face discipline for unprofessional conduct.
Utah has a trigger law that bans killing unborn babies in abortions except in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal anomalies or emergency situations when the mother’s life is at risk. However, a court recently blocked it at the request of Planned Parenthood; Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is appealing.
If Reyes succeeds, Utah would join 14 other states that protect unborn babies by banning or strictly limiting abortions. Pro-life leaders estimate these laws already have saved thousands of unborn babies’ lives.
Currently, unborn babies still are being aborted up to 18 weeks in Utah. According to state health department statistics, 2,818 unborn babies were aborted in 2022.