Utah Bans Abortions Post 18 Weeks

Planned Parenthood and ACLU will challenge the bill in court.

On March 25 Gary Herbert, the Governor of Utah, signed HB136, a bill which forbids abortions post 18 weeks. The new law changes the existing policy of permitting abortions up to 22 weeks gestation. The HB136 bill, now law, was sponsored by Representative Cheryl Acton, a Republican elected from Salt Lake City. An earlier draft of the bill set the time limit for abortions to 15 weeks, but House members later revised it to 18 weeks.

The bill amassed support even though the state government in Utah is fully aware the new law will be challenged in a higher court. Acton’s bill was passed through the House and the Senate mostly through party lines. Democrats tried to argue for women’s rights saying it is the sole prerogative of the person carrying the baby as to whether to abort her child or not. Utah’s latest action is the most recent among many to challenge the landmark Roe v. Wade verdict by the Supreme Court which established abortion as an essential constitutional right. The Utah state has company in this regard. In 2018, Mississippi passed an abortion law with a 15-week limit, with exceptions valid only for severe fetal abnormalities or medical emergencies, however a federal judge subsequently nullified the law.

Governor Herbert, who likes to describe himself as “pro-life,” said in February the bill would be reviewed before he signed it. He also said at that time scientific advancements could warrant a renewed look at the abortion laws.

Opposition to the new law has expectedly sprung up. The Utah branch of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) along with Planned Parenthood issued a joint statement saying they would legally challenge the ban based on constitutionality. The statement included content which decried that the ban adds to the extended list of limiting abortion practices which legislators in Utah have already enacted in the state.

The joint statement issued by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU cited the difficulties faced by women who seek an abortion in the state. Utah compels those who want to abort to complete an online education module. The woman must also pass an informed consent session done face-to-face and which is designed to discourage individuals from requesting abortion services. The woman, after all this, must wait 72 hours before receiving her due abortion care.

Herbert signed a total of 119 bills into law in March.

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