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Abortion rights, Roe v. Wade overturned: Utah Republicans, Democrats react

Anti-abortion protesters celebrate following Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, federally protected right to abortion, outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Friday. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place for nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases.

Anti-abortion protesters celebrate following Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, federally protected right to abortion, outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Friday. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place for nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (Gemunu Amarasinghe, Associated Press)



Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — One Utah Republican politician called the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade the end of a "national nightmare." Another called it a "historic moment."

Republicans in the state celebrated Friday's ruling that upended the landmark 1973 decision and other decades-old abortion opinions, as well as the returned policymaking power to states. The decision paves the way for states to rewrite abortion law nationwide.

A Utah Democrat, though, says the ruling is "earth-shattering" for women in Utah and across the country. Another called it "infuriating, devastating" news that the court reversed a precedent that she says has saved lives and protected individual freedom.

Anti-abortion protesters celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases.
Anti-abortion protesters celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (Photo: Jose Luis Magana, Associated Press)

The hight court's decision revoking the constitutional right to an abortion wasn't unexpected. A draft copy of the majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito was leaked to Politico in early May.

The Friday vote to overturn Roe was 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts not joining the majority opinion. He agreed with the 6-3 majority that the Mississippi abortion restriction at issue in the case should be upheld, but in a separate opinion, he argued that the court should not have overturned Roe.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said Roe v. Wade and another abortion case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, were wrongly decided from the beginning.

"The national nightmare of Roe has ended," he said in a statement.

"While the 63 million lives lost to abortion since Roe can never be reclaimed, we can take heart that the Supreme Court has recognized that Roe v. Wade and its progeny belong next to Plessy v. Ferguson and Dred Scott v. Sandford in the anticanon of Supreme Court history," Lee said. "I have never been prouder to have clerked for Justice Alito or the Supreme Court of the United States."

Lee said he prays for national unity and for the safety of the justices who, in regard to the abortion case, have faced unprecedented attacks.

"I thank God that the people of Utah and the United States are now free to enact protections for life and human dignity," he said.

A "historic moment" is how Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, described the decision.

"The issue goes back to the states, back to the people where it belongs," he said in a tweet.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said he supports the court's decision, and that laws on abortion will be "rightfully" returned to the people and their elected representatives.

"The sanctity of human life is a foundational American principle, and the lives of our children — both born and unborn — deserve our protection," he said in a statement.

Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, said he welcomed the court overturning Roe v. Wade as a ruling in favor of human life.

"Personally, I believe these laws should include the preservation of life, but I also appreciate that this ruling allows elected officials, closer to the people, to draft laws that align with their state's moral views.

"While I see this ruling as a cause for celebration, I am also cognizant of those who feel differently. As this difficult debate continues, I implore all Americans at all levels of government to use this opportunity to learn from one another, treat each other with compassion, and find ways to work together to solve our differences rather than push one another away."

Utah Democratic Party Chairwoman Diane Lewis called the court's decision "earth-shattering" for women across the country, "especially in states like Utah, where extremist Republicans have meticulously put in place extremely restrictive abortion bans, plotting for exactly this moment."

Anticipating the court's decision, the Utah Legislature passed a so-called trigger law in 2020, which bans abortions in most cases.

The law allows abortions only if the mother's life is at risk, if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest, or if two physicians who practice "maternal fetal medicine" both determine that the fetus "has a defect that is uniformly diagnosable and uniformly lethal or ... has a severe brain abnormality that is uniformly diagnosable."

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said his office would defend the state's law "against any and all potential legal challenges."

Lewis called on the Legislature to convene a special session to overturn the law.

Personal and intimate decisions as the choice to have an abortion should be between a woman, her family, and her doctor, and they should not involve the agenda of "radical" politicians, she said.

Democratic Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall called the ruling "infuriating, devastating news" in a tweet. She said it would have devastating consequences nationwide, particularly for women of color and low-income women. The court, she said, overturned a precedent that has saved lives and protected individual freedom.

"I'm sad that women's health is unnecessarily at risk," she said. "My heart is with every woman in Salt Lake City today. This is a giant step backwards for Americans."

Utah GOP Rep. Blake Moore said in a tweet that the court's decision is "an extraordinary victory for Utah, our nation, and the pro-life cause!" He said it will allow Utah to show the nation how to best support families and the sanctity of life.

Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, said the reversal is 50 years overdue.

"The power once again resides in the states and belongs to the people," he tweeted. "This is a win for life."

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Dennis Romboy
Dennis Romboy is an editor and reporter for the Deseret News. He has covered a variety of beats over the years, including state and local government, social issues and courts. A Utah native, Romboy earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding and running.

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