Utah bars abortions after 18 weeks while latest trigger law is debated in courts, lawmaker says

A Utah flag flies outside of the state Capitol in 2019. A state representative says a 2019 trigger law banning abortions after 18 weeks went into effect Tuesday while the 2020 trigger law is temporarily suspended in the court system.

A Utah flag flies outside of the state Capitol in 2019. A state representative says a 2019 trigger law banning abortions after 18 weeks went into effect Tuesday while the 2020 trigger law is temporarily suspended in the court system. (Carter Williams, KSL.com)



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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah state representative announced Tuesday that an abortion trigger law passed in 2019 is now law while Utah courts sift through a 2020 trigger law that bans the practice of abortions altogether except in circumstances that involve rape, incest or a medical emergency.

HB136, which was passed three years ago, bans elective abortions after 18 weeks with a few exceptions: "rape, incest, life of the mother, permanent impairment of the mother, fatal fetal defect and severe brain abnormality," according to Rep. Cheryl Acton. Like the 2020 trigger law, HB136 was blocked by the Supreme Court's previous ruling on abortions but was freed up by the court's decision on Friday.

"As a state, Utah values human life at all ages and stages and under all circumstances," said Acton, R-West Jordan, the bill's primary sponsor, in a statement Tuesday. "HB136 will protect unborn children after 18 weeks' gestation pending the outcome of SB174."

Acton's announcement comes a day after a Utah judge approved a temporary 14-day restraining on SB174, the trigger law that went into effect on Friday, hours after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade case that permitted abortions.

Planned Parenthood, which filed the lawsuit over the law, said there were at least 12 abortions scheduled to be performed in Utah on Monday. It had asked the court to address the issue quickly when it requested a hearing. The organization also sponsored protests in Utah against the Supreme Court decision and also Utah's trigger law.

Karrie Galloway, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Utah, said in a statement Tuesday that the organization "still has a right to challenge the 18-week ban in a future case."

"For now, we are focused on challenging the trigger ban in state court and doing all we can to provide care to our patients," she said.

Galloway emphasized that Planned Parenthood's "doors are open, and we will continue to provide abortion care according to the law."

Monday's injunction was blasted by Utah leaders who support bans on abortion. Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, and the sponsor of Utah's abortion trigger law, said the decision "sentenced 115 babies to death" based on Utah's average of 8.2 abortions per day.

"It's disappointing that a law meant to protect the most vulnerable, the unborn, is delayed by one judge with no support in the law," he added. "I'm confident that Utah's abortion ban will be upheld, and we can work to support life."

Pro-Life Utah leaders expressed gratitude that a ban will be in place after Tuesday's announcement.

"For the time being, at least some unborn babies will be protected from having their lives ended. We appreciate Rep. Acton for spearheading this bill and for now seeing it go into effect to save babies," said Deanna Holland, executive director of the organization, adding that the group anticipates a time "when all unborn babies are protected from elective abortion."

She said the group believes that will happen in Utah "very soon."

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Utah LegislaturePoliticsUtahPolice & Courts
Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by the way of Rochester, New York.

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