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Supreme Court abortion ruling: Utah celebrates, grieves new reality

Abortion-rights activists react after hearing the Supreme Court decision on abortion outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years in a decision by its conservative majority to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

Abortion-rights activists react after hearing the Supreme Court decision on abortion outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years in a decision by its conservative majority to overturn Roe v. Wade.  (Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press)



Estimated read time: 7-8 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns' reactions to the Supreme Court decision that overruled Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion after almost 50 years, were deeply divided, with one Democratic state lawmaker saying she was "horrified" by the decision while a right-to-life advocate declared she was "ecstatic."

The 6-3 decision to uphold Mississippi's restrictive abortion law and the 5-4 vote to overturn Roe on Friday will lead to all but total bans on the procedure in about half of the states.

People protest for abortion rights at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday.
People protest for abortion rights at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday. (Photo: Scott Winterton, Deseret News)

"We are ecstatic about this strong majority decision to overturn Roe," said Merrilee Boyack, chairwoman of Abortion-Free Utah.

"This will essentially eradicate elective abortion in the state of Utah. Thanks to the Dobbs decision, potentially 3,000 more babies every year will be allowed to live in our state alone!" she said in a statement.

Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said she was "horrified" by the Supreme Court's ruling. "I'm worried about the implications of this on women, especially marginalized women," she said.

Utah's trigger law, which prohibits elective abortion but allows procedures in instances of rape or incest, risk to the mother's life and certain fetal defects, is "deeply problematic for me and that's why I voted against it."

The reasons women seek abortions are deeply personal, she said, and "that's a decision made between them and their health care provider."

"I feel strongly that a court, legislative body and their religious institutions should have no say in that decision," Romero said. "I'm nervous about what this is going to do. I'm nervous about other rights such as gay marriage. I'm worried about (whether I will) be able to buy birth control in the future? So, again, we're going back in time, we're not moving forward."

Utah Senate President Stuart Adams said the court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson was a "monumental victory for human life. Protecting those who cannot defend themselves is an obligation and duty we must all take upon ourselves. The Declaration of Independence clearly states we have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, a promise the Supreme Court upheld today."

Anti-abortion protesters celebrate following Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, federally protected right to abortion, outside of the Supreme Court in Washington Friday. 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 following Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, federally protected right to abortion, outside of the Supreme Court in Washington Friday. 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: Gemunu Amarasinghe, Associated Press)

Karrie Galloway, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, in a press conference Friday said, "Today is a dark day. I have to admit we've all been planning on this especially since the leaked opinion happened about six weeks ago, but to have it reality is a real blow."

Galloway continued: "We now have politicians making decisions, critical decisions, about my body, your body, how I will start a family, how I will live life. It's unbelievable that the Supreme Court, I'm going to use the word audacity, overturned 50 years of precedent for over 50% of the population. It is inconceivable to me with this one decision that they have changed the lives of so many people."

Galloway said Planned Parenthood staff are "in a bit of shock. I have to admit that it's real now. But we will be there to try and help you figure out what can happen next. We can't guarantee that you'll get what you need, but we can help you work your way through the problem. ... I just feel for everyone who's scared right now and needs basic health care and the state of Utah doesn't seem to care."

The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City said in a statement it "welcomes efforts to protect the dignity and sanctity of every life from conception to natural death."

"We are grateful that the Supreme Court recognizes the human within the womb, but we also recognize it is the responses of communities to women in need before, during and after pregnancy and the birth of a child that are the most important to building a culture of life."

The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City's statement continued: "Courts cannot ensure that women have the support and resources needed to raise healthy children. We encourage all communities of faith, neighbors, friends, and family to be ready and willing to walk with moms as they seek to provide lives of dignity for their children."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, in a statement, said by overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court took away a fundamental right that people have relied on for nearly 50 years.

"Banning abortion will have an immediate and devastating impact on women and all people who can become pregnant, taking from them a right that has been central to their ability to plan their lives, families and careers. Because of the decision today, the burdens will continue to disproportionately fall on BIPOC individuals, those struggling to make ends meet, young people, rural residents, immigrants and LGBTQ+ communities," the statement said in part.

Anti-abortion protesters celebrate following Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, federally protected right to abortion, outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday. 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 following Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, federally protected right to abortion, outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday. 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: Gemunu Amarasinghe, Associated Press)

Utah's anti-abortion policies have for too long put the state on the wrong side of history, the ACLU of Utah noted. "The ACLU of Utah and our partners are determined to mobilize our supporters to ensure our voices are heard as we fight back against current and future anti-abortion policies."

The Sutherland Institute, meanwhile, called the decision a test of the nation's "civic character," noting the unprecedented leak of a draft of the Supreme Court's ruling and threats to the justices and their families.

"Healthy civic institutions are essential to fulfilling America's founding aspirations of freedom and equality — the United States Supreme Court requires public trust to be effective. Events preceding the Dobbs decision have threatened that trust. We can change that moving forward," said Sutherland Institute president and CEO Rick Larsen.

Overturning Roe v. Wade triggers SB174, passed by the Utah Legislature in 2020. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, is supported by nearly half of Utahns, according to a recent Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll.

According to the poll results, 46% of Utahns say abortion should only be legal in cases of rape, incest and threats to the health of the mother.

Moreover, 38% of the 808 registered Utah voters who responded to the poll said the state should determine laws regarding abortion, although 31% said government should not be involved in health care decisions. Twenty-five percent said the federal government should determine abortion laws.

McCay said in a statement the ruling acknowledges "that after nearly 50 years since the ruling of Roe v. Wade, we are finally recognizing and acknowledging the scientific facts of the matter — that a fetus is a human life.

"By recognizing this truth, we can take steps to overcome our nation's greatest atrocity and find better ways to support both mothers and children," McCay said. "Now is the time to unite to provide resources and educate about alternative options readily available, such as adoption. I remain steadfast in being unapologetically pro-life and in my support for mothers, families and children."

Galloway said Planned Parenthood will continue to offer abortion services until Utah's trigger law is certified. Once the law goes into effect, Planned Parenthood will continue to act as a resource to women, she said.

"You can always call Planned Parenthood and we can get you to someone who can start working with you to get the health care that you need. We can answer questions for you," she said.

There are a number of states in the West that will continue to offer abortion services but much depends on women's ability to travel, take time off work, pay for services and schedule appointments.

The closest clinics are in Colorado, seven hours away, Galloway said.

"I just shake my head and shudder to think what a woman or a pregnant person has to face once the trigger ban goes into effect in Utah," she said.

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