Utah governor signs bill that may close all abortion facilities in state

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UPDATE, 3/16/23: As expected, Governor Spencer Cox has signed House Bill 467 into law. KUER reports, “With the law set to start taking effect as early as May 3, both the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah and the Utah Hospital Association declined to detail how the increasingly fraught legal landscape for providers in Utah will affect abortion access.”

The outlet added, “Though Planned Parenthood previously warned the law could dramatically hamper its ability to provide abortions, Jason Stevenson, the association’s lobbyist, said Wednesday it would now further examine the wording of other provisions of the law that could allow clinics to apply for new licenses to perform hospital-equivalent services.”

3/8/23: Utah lawmakers passed a bill Friday that would ban abortion facilities in the state, leaving hospitals as the sole facilities allowed to directly and intentionally end the lives of human beings before they are born.

House Bill 467 passed the Utah Senate on Thursday. It was then sent to the House of Representatives, which approved it Friday morning. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has said he will sign the legislation. The measure would ban the licensing of new abortion facilities in the state, and require the closure of current facilities once their licenses expire.

“[I]t is the state’s responsibility to protect the most vulnerable, and that includes the unborn,” Karianne Lisonbee, who sponsored the bill, told the Salt Lake Tribune. “We have worked closely with area doctors and hospitals to ensure that our statute strikes the best balance in protecting innocent life and protecting women who experience rare and dangerous complications during pregnancy.”

The bill also more clearly defines abortion and its exceptions within the state’s trigger law, allowing for minors under age 14 who want an abortion to do so without reporting a crime, while limiting rape and incest exceptions to before 18 weeks.

The trigger law, which would have protected most preborn children from abortion, passed in 2020, but has since been blocked by the courts. For the time being, abortions are permitted in the state through 18 weeks. (The child pictured below is 18 weeks.)

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(Original Caption) The needle telescope is inserted into the womb under local anesthetic. It is used so that doctors can control the attached syringe with accuracy. The blood sample is then taken from the placenta. The fetus in the picture is 18 weeks old. (Getty Images)

“One of the concerns with the trigger bill that medical providers had across the state was there was a lack of clarity that would have made it hard for them to perform legal abortions,” said Cox.

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Abortion supporters have already hinted that they will challenge this new law in court.

“It’s no secret that the ACLU of Utah and others in the room today are always looking out for possible constitutional violations that are embedded in the laws that come out of this body,” said Brittney Nystrom, the executive director of the ACLU of Utah. “So we will be taking a close look at laws that restrict rights and freedoms of individuals and in making decisions on whether to continue those challenges in court.”

According to ABC News, the legislation would affect four abortion facilities in the state: three Planned Parenthood facilities, and an independent facility called the Wasatch Women’s Center.

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