The lawsuit filed Wednesday challenges the constitutionality of the Utah law and asks a federal judge to issue a temporary injunction stopping it from going into effect on May 14 while the legal challenge ensues.
“This unconstitutional ban is clearly part of a broader agenda to ban all abortion one law at a time,” Karrie Galloway, president and CEO of Utah’s Planned Parenthood, said at a Wednesday press conference. “Just this year, more than 260 abortion restrictions have been introduced in legislatures across the country. Our Utah lawmakers insisted on contributing to this dangerous trend and eroding Roe v. Wade.”
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed the ban into law late last month. It was authored by Republican state Rep. Cheryl Acton, who argued that “Utah is known as a pro-family state. We have the nation’s highest birth rate. So we should be the safest place in the nation, born and unborn.”
Opponents of the ban have emphasized that no fetus is viable outside the womb at 18 weeks, and that many tests for fetal abnormalities ― including ones that would indicate it would not survive after birth ― aren’t available until 18-20 weeks into a pregnancy. Furthermore, they argued, legal precedent is on their side.
“Since Roe v. Wade, no court anywhere in the country has upheld a ban on previability abortion, and the Supreme Court has repeatedly declined to reconsider Roe,” the Utah ACLU stated in a fact sheet about this week’s lawsuit.
Utah is already a challenging state for women to obtain an abortion. Galloway denounced other state laws that require women to wait 72 hours for an abortion and to participate in a what she calls a biased online consultation session “designed to discourage people from seeking abortion services” before having the procedure.
Utah also only has two licensed abortion clinics, both based in Salt Lake City.
Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are also eyeing legal battles in a number of other states that have introduced bills with even stricter cutoff dates for abortion. The same day they introduced the Utah lawsuit, Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature passed a bill to outlaw the procedure as soon as a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat, which can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
Governors in Mississippi and Kentucky both recently signed similar bills, and heartbeat legislation in Florida, Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas is expected to pass this year.