Abortion Clinics in Utah to Remain Open for Now

May 3, 2023

A Utah judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked a new law that would have banned abortion clinics in that state.

The bill was signed into law in March by Gov. Spencer Cox (R). At the time, Cox said the law would address legal liability concerns that providers had voiced and would clarify what is a legal abortion procedure going forward.

Since abortion is legal in Utah up to 18 weeks of pregnancy, abortion opponents in the state legislature instead targeted abortion clinics themselves. 

Among other provisions, the law makes it a crime to perform an abortion anywhere other than a hospital. Abortion clinics would lose their licenses if they provide abortion services. Further, no new licenses would be issued after May.

According to Planned Parenthood—which sued Utah over the new law—clinics are the site of 95% of the abortions in Utah. Planned Parenthood asserted in its suit that the law effectively eliminates abortion in the state. 

On Tuesday, Judge Andrew H. Stone of Utah’s 3rd Judical District sided with Planned Parenthood. In a 22-page ruling he wrote that the organization “has advanced a factual record supporting the conclusion that the Legislature’s classification is unreasonable and appears to single out abortion clinics without any justification.”

Further, Stone said, “The Clinic Ban places a greater burden on licensed abortion clinics by criminalizing abortions performed in such clinics despite the unrebutted evidence that abortions performed in an outpatient clinic are equally as safe as those performed in a hospital.”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson said in a statement that the organization was “grateful that the court has blocked this extremely harmful law and granted much-needed relief to Utahns in need of abortion care before it took effect.”

Stone’s ruling will not be the final say, however. Planned Parenthood is also challening a broader Utah ban on abortion.

It’s one of a total of 38 cases challenging abortion bans in 21 states since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade last June. As of mid-April, 28 of those challenges remained pending at either the trial or appellate levels.

PHOTO: Utah State Capitol

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