By Laura Johnson
Utah”s bill that would ban late-term abortions was temporarily halted by a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell signed a restraining order, with attorneys for Planned Parenthood, the Utah Women”s Medical Clinic and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, to block Utah”s late-term abortion ban from being enforced.
State leaders downplayed Cassell”s decision, saying lawmakers agreed during the 2004 Legislature to hold the case in abeyance until three challenges to a similar federal law have been decided, according to an article in The Salt Lake Tribune.
Sen. Curtis S. Bramble, R-Provo, said he and other legislators expected pro-abortion activists to file a lawsuit against the state and put the bill on hold.
“Of course there was a lawsuit,” Bramble said. “There always is against anything that doesn”t allow complete choice. We amended the bill, to make certain the existing law stays in place. Any attempt to restrict abortion provisions, Planned Parenthood and the pro-abortion advocates had threatened to sue. Their agenda is open access to abortions on demand.”
Bramble said he is against partial-birth abortion and feels strongly that the state needs to take a stand for what is right.
“It”s hard to have a middle ground when you”re dealing with a life – there”s no half-dead,” he said. “I think the real question here is do we value human life? We are talking about a women”s right to choose versus a human being”s right to live.”
The Utah statute mirrors the abortion bill President Bush signed last year that is in litigation. The Senate passed the Utah bill, expecting anti-abortion activists would file suit, and the bill would be placed on hold until the federal litigation was completed.
“We”re going to wait until the federal litigation is concluded and if the federal administration is successful in defending the federal law, our law will be held up as well,” Bramble said.
Carrie Galloway, CEO of Planned Parenthood, said she hopes the abortion law will be ruled unconstitutional in the national lawsuit so it doesn”t have to follow through with the Utah lawsuit.
Linda Rosenthal, attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights and co-counsel for the clinic, said Utah”s law may be declared unconstitutional because it is identical to the federal law. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a similar Nebraska law that did not allow an exception for the mother”s health. Rosenthal said that”s the fatal flaw in the new federal legislation and in Utah”s statute.
“Women should have a choice,” Galloway said. “It is not something to be decided by a politician,”
Some abortion providers said they think the bill disregards a women”s right to choose and puts their well-being in jeopardy.
Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum, said she thinks partial-birth abortion is wrong and equivalent to murder.
“Just because a woman doesn”t want to have a baby, doesn”t mean that unborn child should have to die,” Ruzicka said. “There are people willing to help mothers carry their baby to term. There is always help.”
Ruzicka said she would like to see the state focus more on helping women through the pregnancy process because the goal is to save babies and the mothers.
Galloway said she thinks the Utah abortion law is unnecessary.
“The issue has already been covered and we don”t need any more abortion laws,” Galloway said. “Before I see any more anti-abortion laws passed, I would like to see the state take more action to prevent abortion.”
Jocelyn Elders, a retired professor of Pediatric Endocrinology at the University of Arkansas, has been outspoken on the abortion issue for years, including speaking at the University of Utah”s Women”s Week in 2003.
“I feel that abortion is a decision to be made between a woman, her doctor and her God.” Elders said. “Politicians do not have the right to make that decision for them.”
If the federal law does not pass, Utah lawmakers will amend the bill to mirror the Ohio law upheld in the 6th District Court. This law bans late-term abortions.