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A timeline of Utah’s history with abortion rights and Roe v. Wade

Historically, Utah has passed some of the strictest laws regulating abortion in the nation, and more could come into effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned this summer.

(Jose Luis Magana | AP) The U.S. Supreme Court is seen early Tuesday, May 3, 2022 in Washington. A draft opinion suggests the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide, according to a Politico report released Monday.

The U.S. Supreme Court has reportedly voted to overturn the decision in Roe v. Wade — a seminal ruling from 1973 that recognizes a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion — a newly leaked majority opinion draft shows.

The initial draft, which was released Monday night by Politico, was written by Justice Samuel Alito, and further reporting by Politico suggests that Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett have sided with Alito, while Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan are dissenting. It is unclear how Chief Justice John Roberts will vote; however, if the other justices remain true to these indications, the court would have the majority needed to overturn Roe v. Wade.

In a news release Tuesday, the Supreme Court verified the leak was accurate but cautioned that “it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.”

If Roe v. Wade is officially overturned, it would be an unprecedented decision by the highest court in the land. Here is Utah’s history with abortion laws.

Timeline

  • 1876: Beginning in 1876, it was a crime to produce a miscarriage “through use of any medicine, drug, substance or other means unless done to save her life” in Utah.

  • Jan 22, 1973: Roe v. Wade is decided in a 7-2 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case establishes certain protections for a woman’s right to have an abortion, based on the constitutional right to privacy. The Supreme Court case Doe. v. Bolton, which struck down a Georgia law regulating abortion, is also decided on this day.

  • March 2, 1973: After the pair of landmark cases are decided by the Supreme Court, Utah moves quickly to roll back abortion rights in the state. A new Abortion Act prohibits abortions except in cases where the mother’s life or health is in jeopardy and requires “judicial hearings before all abortions and consent by the father.”

  • August 1973: The Utah Abortion Act is ruled unconstitutional in district court. The judges cite the Roe v. Wade decision in their ruling, which determines the act is “discriminatory and overly broad since it applied to any trimester of pregnancy.”

  • February 1974: The unconstitutional act is repealed and replaced. The new law contains a provision that requires “a physician to notify the parents or guardian of a minor and the husband of a married woman before performing an abortion.” The language relating to parental notification is upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981.

  • Jan 25, 1991: Utah Gov. Norman Bangerter signs the Criminal Abortion Act, “the toughest anti-abortion measure in the 50 states,” according to The New York Times. The Times article, which is published a day after the act was signed, also describes the law as a “direct challenge to Roe v. Wade,” with prohibitions on most elective abortions in cases other than rape, incest or “grave” health dangers to the mother or defects to the baby.

  • June 29, 1992: Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey is decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, and their ruling reasserts the decision in Roe v. Wade. However, the provisions in the Pennsylvania law requiring consent of a parent, in the case of a minor, and a waiting period are both upheld. The other section in question, which requires married women to notify their husbands before having an abortion, is struck down. The ruling also establishes the “undue burden” standard for state laws seeking to regulate abortion.

  • December 1992: Following a lawsuit filed by the ACLU in April 1991, a district court judge rules that much of Utah’s new Criminal Abortion Act is unconstitutional. The judge strikes down the ban on most elective abortions but upholds certain prohibitions on when an abortion can be performed during a pregnancy. The judge also strikes down the husband notification provision.

  • 1997: The district court decision is upheld by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

  • March 25, 2019: Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signs HB136, a law that bans abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy. The law is currently on hold. The eventual decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which bans abortions after 15 weeks and is currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court, could lead to the law becoming enforceable.

  • March 28, 2020: Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signs SB174, a trigger law that would come into effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned. The new law would allow Utah to revert to some of the same rules from its 1991 Criminal Abortion Act. The trigger law bans “all elective abortions with exceptions for rape, incest and the health of a mother.” For more information about the law, you can find The Salt Lake Tribune’s coverage here.

  • May 17, 2021: The U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Among possible outcomes, the court’s ruling could uphold the Mississippi law and overturn Roe v. Wade, uphold Mississippi’s law and keep Roe v. Wade or simply strike down the law — Politico’s reporting makes the first option seem most likely.

  • July 2021: Utah Sen. Mike Lee, along with Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, file an amicus brief to the Supreme Court concerning Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, urging the court to drop the decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.

  • May 2, 2022: Politico releases the leaked majority opinion draft, in which Alito writes, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.” The Supreme Court is expected to make an official ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization by the end of this summer.

  • May 2-3, 2022: Utah Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney react to the Politico leak. In a tweet Monday evening, Lee writes, in part, “I hope and pray that what appears to be Justice Alito’s well-written and well-reasoned draft in fact reflects the majority view of the Court.” Romney echoes those sentiments the following day in a tweet of his own, writing, “If the leaked draft opinion reflects the final outcome, it is a decision I support. The sanctity of human life is a foundational American principle.”

While HB136 and SB174 are both in stasis, there are still laws regulating abortion in Utah. According to Planned Parenthood, “In Utah, you must obtain face-to-face informed consent and wait 72 hours before having an abortion.”

Editor Jeff Parrott contributed to this report.