Planned Parenthood of Utah files suit, asking court to declare state’s abortion ban unconstitutional

The suit requests a temporary restraining order against the state’s ban on abortion, which went into effect Friday.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) People gather for a rally in defense of abortion rights after at the Capitol, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court Friday overturned Roe v. Wade, rescinding the federal right to abortion.

The Planned Parenthood Association of Utah has filed a lawsuit to block Utah’s trigger law on abortion, the organization announced Saturday.

Utah’s trigger law, banning abortions in the state, went into effect Friday night after the U.S. Supreme Court announced its reversal of Roe v. Wade, the nearly 50-year-old decision that protected a woman’s right to an abortion. The suit asks the court to declare the state’s abortion ban invalid, alleging that it violates rights given to Utahns in the state’s constitution.

The suit — filed for Planned Parenthood of Utah by attorneys at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Salt Lake City law firm Zimmerman Booher, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah — also requests that the court grant a temporary restraining order prohibiting state employees from administering and enforcing the ban with respect to any abortions provided during the injunctions.

“In one terrible moment, Roe v. Wade was overturned, and Utahns’ power to control their own bodies, lives, and personal medical decisions was threatened,” said Karrie Galloway, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, in a news release. “Yesterday’s decision was devastating, but Planned Parenthood will never stop standing with and fighting for the rights of our patients and providers. Not now, not ever.”

Utah’s trigger law passed in the state Legislature in 2020, and bans abortion across the state except in these limited circumstances:

• If it “is necessary to avert the death” or if there is “a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” of the pregnant woman.

• “Two physicians who practice maternal fetal medicine concur ... that the fetus has a defect that is uniformly diagnosable and uniformly lethal,” or “has a severe brain abnormality that is uniformly diagnosable.” According to the law, this does not include Down syndrome, spina bifida, cerebral palsy or any condition “that does not cause an individual to live in a mentally vegetative state.”

• The pregnancy was caused by a rape or incest. Before performing an abortion, the physician will have to verify the rape or incest has been reported to law enforcement or the proper authorities.

The lawsuit alleges that the trigger law violates Utah’s constitution in seven ways: Under the right to determine family composition and to parent; the right of equal protection; the right to the uniform operation of laws; the right to bodily integrity; the rights of conscience; the right to privacy; and the prohibition of involuntary servitude.

Planned Parenthood asserts that in the absence of legal abortion in the state, about 2,800 Utahns each year will face a “government-mandated trilemma”: To either remain pregnant “against their will,” remain pregnant until they can gain resources to obtain abortion services out of state, or attempt to “self-manage” an abortion outside of the medical system, court documents state.

The lawsuit also explains that without court relief, at least 55 Utahns will not be able to get abortion care in Utah this week. On Saturday, the lawsuit said, Planned Parenthood canceled roughly a dozen appointments for patients who had abortions scheduled.

“The lawsuit explains that the Utah Constitution protects pregnant Utahns’ rights to determine when and whether to have a family, and to determine what happens with their own bodies and lives,” Planned Parenthood said in its news release. “The suit makes clear that the rights promised under the Utah Constitution are more expansive than those under federal law, and remain unaffected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision.”