Utah lawmakers put new law in place prohibiting abortion after 18 weeks

Jun 28, 2022, 5:34 PM | Updated: 11:31 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — As Utah continues to have new developments in its legal battle over abortions, according to state lawmakers, another law is now in place.

HB 136 is a law that prohibits elective abortion after 18 weeks of gestation, with exceptions for cases such as rape and incest.

While the bill was passed in 2019, it couldn’t go into law because of the precedent set by Roe V. Wade. However, with the recent decision of the Supreme Court to overturn it, HB 136 goes into place.

Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade; states can ban abortion

Currently, a judge is determining whether or not a near-full ban on abortion violates the state’s constitution.

According to a release from state lawmakers, “Planned Parenthood enjoined the enactment of HB 136 immediately after the governor signed it, contending that it violated the pre-Dobbs viability standard. The Dobbs decision released on Friday returned abortion law to the states, overturning viability considerations at the federal level.”

“I knew it might happen, but it seemed a remote possibility,” said Rep. Cheryl Acton, R-West Jordan, who sponsored HB 136.

She explained that the law was tied up in district court.

“Someone texted me and said they thought that my law might be the law of land right now, and I was like, ‘No it’s been enjoined; it’s still not on the table,'” Acton explained. “And then I learned that it had been dismissed (from district court), so I was surprised.”

After receiving legal confirmation, she publicly announced that HB 136 was taking effect.

HB 136 restricts the state’s prior law of 22 weeks to 18, with six exceptions: rape, incest, life of the mother, permanent impairment of the mother, fatal fetal defect, and severe brain abnormality.

Acton said the severe brain abnormality exception was not included in prior law and is an additional exception.

Violation of the law can result in criminal felony charges.

University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law professor, Teneille Brown, who speaks for herself and not on behalf of her employer, called the situation a “legal mess.”

“It doesn’t help provide legitimacy for the courts as a rule of law when it looks like it’s volleying back and forth,” she said.

Brown expressed that the sudden changes in law add uncertainty to an already complicated and serious process for patients seeking care and for providers. She said providers and patients now need to keep track of things moment-by-moment, because what is legal one day may not be the next.

“This is a very difficult, personal decision, and so not knowing whether you are going to be able to have a procedure or not, whether it’s legal or not, whether your provider even knows whether it is legal or not — that’s very destabilizing for the rule of law,” she said.

She also hoped for clarification on how the law will be enforced.

Planned Parenthood is seeking an injunction against SB 174 while Judge Andrew Stone considers whether the law violates the Utah Constitution.

Acton doesn’t expect HB 136 to stay in effect for long.

“As a state, Utah values human life at all ages and stages and under all circumstances,” she said. “HB 136 will protect unborn children after 18 weeks’ gestation pending the outcome of SB 174.”

President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Utah, Karrie Galloway, released the following statement Tuesday evening:

Planned Parenthood’s doors are open, and we will continue to provide abortion care according to the law. The dismissal of our case against HB 136 was a procedural move after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Rest assured, PPAU 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.

Deanna Holland, executive director of Pro-Life Utah, also released a statement Tuesday evening:

We are grateful that the 18-week ban on elective abortion in Utah is now in effect. For the time being, at least some unborn babies will be protected from having their lives ended. We appreciate Representative Acton for spearheading this bill and for now seeing it go into effect to save babies. We look forward to the time when all unborn babies are protected from elective abortion and are confident we will see that in Utah very soon.

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Utah lawmakers put new law in place prohibiting abortion after 18 weeks