SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The fate of Utah abortion clinics now rests with Gov. Spencer Cox after lawmakers…
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The fate of Utah abortion clinics now rests with Gov. Spencer Cox after lawmakers finalized and passed a measure to ban them in the state less than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade , returning the power to regulate abortion to the states.
After passing through the state Senate Thursday with minor amendments, it returned to the Utah House of Representatives Friday morning, where it was approved and then sent to the governor for final approval.
Cox told reporters last month he plans to sign a measure that also clarifies the definition of abortion to address liability concerns providers have raised about how the exemptions are worded in state law — a provision Republicans called a compromise.
The measure is one of several that members of Utah’s Republican majority have passed this year, while abortion restrictions approved in past years are on hold due to a state court injunction. It faced stiff opposition from business, civil liberties and abortion rights groups, including Planned Parenthood of Utah, which operates three of the state’s four abortion clinics.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah sent a letter to Cox on Friday urging him to veto the legislation, with its executive director writing that it interferes with people’s rights and “puts essential abortion services out of reach.”
The push by Republican lawmakers to close abortion clinics comes as states across the country work to introduce restrictions less than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision that enshrined the constitutional right to abortion for nearly 50 years.
In Utah, the decision followed two earlier laws — a 2019 ban on abortions after 18 weeks and a 2020 ban on abortions regardless of trimester, with a few exceptions, including in cases of risk to the mother’s health and rape or incest reported to the police. The state’s Planned Parenthood sued over the 2020 ban, and in July a state court stayed its implementation pending legal challenges. The 18-week ban has since become de facto law.
The momentum targeting the Utah clinic is unique among states with trigger laws, where many abortion clinics have closed since last year’s Supreme Court ruling, including West Virginia and Mississippi. The measure mirrors a slew of proposals passed in red states in the decade before Roe was overturned, when anti-abortion lawmakers passed measures regulating clinics, including the size of procedure rooms and distance from hospitals.
In Utah, Rep. Corian Lisanbee’s proposal would require all abortions — medical or surgical — to be performed in hospitals, barring new clinics from being licensed after May 2 and barring any clinics from operating after their licenses expire. It will affect four abortion clinics in Utah: three operated by Planned Parenthood and one operated by the Wasatch Women’s Center, an independent clinic in Salt Lake City.
Clinics performed the majority of abortions in Utah last year. Of a total of 2,818 patients, 61% received medications such as mifepristone rather than surgery. Abortion access advocates have argued that abortion is no different from other types of specialty care, which are increasingly moving to clinics where providers are more accustomed to dealing with recurring patient problems and dealing with complications that may arise.
Cox, the governor, said last month that the measure would help clean up the law in light of new laws that came into effect after Roe v. Wade was overturned, both in terms of the wording of the exemptions and where abortions must take place. provided for by the new laws.
“Under the current law — which is suspended because it’s under trial — there was a reluctance to perform any abortions,” he told reporters at a monthly press conference. “It will give (providers and hospitals) the clarity they’ve been asking for.”
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