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Resolution targeting Utah abortion law passes House, heads for final vote in Senate

House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, gives his speech during the opening day of the 2023 Utah Legislature session at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday.

House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, gives his speech during the opening day of the 2023 Utah Legislature session at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — A joint resolution that would make it easier to challenge the hold placed on Utah's abortion ban cleared the two-thirds majority threshold in the Utah House and will head to the Utah Senate for final approval.

The sponsor of HJR2, Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Pleasant Grove, has said the resolution wasn't explicitly written to target Utah's abortion ban, but legal experts have said it would let the state ask the courts to review the preliminary injunction issued against the ban — and would likely increase legal fees for both the state and the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah. PPAU filed to block Utah's trigger ban shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer.

Brammer told colleagues the resolution would raise the bar for judges to grant injunctions.

The injunction against the abortion ban was granted on the grounds that Planned Parenthood's case presented "serious issues" worth consideration on their merits. Under HJR2, judges would be required to grant injunctions only when there is a "substantial likelihood" of success, essentially "front-loading" the question of constitutionality in a trial, Brammer said.

The resolution would not automatically overturn the hold on Utah's trigger law,

Brammer called the serious issues standard "subjective" and "permissive," and said it is out of step with similar rules in federal courts.

"Injunctions are an extraordinary and drastic remedy and should not be granted lightly," he said.

Opponents of the resolution are frustrated by a clause making it retroactive, which they say could impact other litigation besides Planned Parenthood's lawsuit. Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, offered an amendment — the same one that failed during a committee hearing last week — to remove the retroactivity, but it failed again.

House representatives ultimately passed the resolution 59-13, clearing the two-thirds majority required for resolutions. The resolution will go into effect if two-thirds of senators approve. The governor does not need to sign resolutions and does not have the power to veto them.

State Democrats argued that by passing HJR2, lawmakers would be interfering in the judicial process in order to lift the hold on the trigger abortion ban.

"The Republican supermajority will stop at nothing to implement their extreme abortion ban," the Utah Democratic Party said in a news release. "Rather than respecting the judicial process and waiting for the lawsuit challenging the ban to move through the courts in a fair and balanced manner, they are taking the extraordinary step of retroactively changing the rules to get their way. This is yet another example of Republican government overreach, and the lengths that these politicians will go to to exert control over the private, intimate medical decisions of our families should concern every Utahn."

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Bridger Beal-Cvetko covers Utah politics, Salt Lake County communities and breaking news for KSL.com. He is a graduate of Utah Valley University.

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