Utah Faces Legal Challenge to New 18-Week Abortion Ban

(CN) – Planned Parenthood sued the Utah Department of Health in federal court Wednesday over a controversial law banning abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy.

“Politicians have no place in the private, medical decisions of Utah women,” said Karrie Galloway, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah in a statement. “This 18-week ban is clearly unconstitutional and part of a broader agenda to ban abortion one law at a time. It is not only a direct attack on the women of Utah, it is a blatant and targeted attempt to chip away at Roe v. Wade.”

Planned Parenthood previously led a successful lawsuit against Utah’s 1991 ban on abortions after 22 weeks.

The group estimates 90 percent of abortions are performed within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, but explained in its 12-page lawsuit that “patients obtain abortions at or after 18 weeks for a variety of reasons.”

“Women, particularly those living in poverty or without insurance, may not be able to confirm their pregnancies, obtain options counseling, schedule an appointment, and make the logistical and financial arrangements (including time off work and childcare) to obtain an abortion for many weeks after they realize that they may be pregnant and decide to end the pregnancy,” the 12-page lawsuit explained.

“Other patients obtain an abortion for medical reasons that do not arise until at or after 18 weeks, or because they are suffering from post-traumatic issues following rape or incest.”

Other restrictions imposed by the state include preventing private health insurance from covering the procedure and only allowing licensed facilities in Salt Lake City to perform abortions.

Under current law, Utah allows abortions up until the fetus is determined to be viable, or “potentially able to live outside the womb.”

The original bill as introduced earlier this year by Rep. Cheryl Acton, R-West Jordan and Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, sought to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Utah Gov. Gar Herbert signed HB 136 into law on April 2, which considers violators guilty of a second-degree felony, with a prison sentence between one and 15 years. Both facilities and doctors can lose their licenses if caught performing abortions after the 18-week mark.

Planned Parenthood asks the court to declare the Utah law unconstitutional and to prevent it from being enforced before it takes effect in May. The non-profit organization is represented by attorney Leah Farrell of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.

A spokesperson for the Utah Department of Health said the agency is not making any statements due to the pending litigation.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday afternoon.

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