Planned Parenthood, ACLU file lawsuit against Utah

Karrie Galloway President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Utah address what she believes to be an unconstitutional bill. (Ty Mullen)

The Planned Parenthood Association of Utah and the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah filed a lawsuit against the state in federal court for the Legislature’s passage of HB136, which prohibits abortions in Utah after 18 weeks. Gov. Gary Herbert signed the bill into law March 25.

According to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, HB136 infringes on the precedent set by Roe v. Wade, which includes a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion under the Constitution’s 14th amendment.

At a press conference April 10, ACLU of Utah attorney Leah Farrell spoke about what she sees as the law’s constitutional violations and said the ACLU is asking the federal court to block the ban while the lawsuit is taking place.

Karrie Galloway, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Utah, said the decision to terminate a pregnancy should remain a choice between a woman and her doctor.

Supporters gathered on the steps inside the Capitol building during the press conference. (Ty Mullen)

“Politicians have no place in the private, medical decisions of Utah women. This unconstitutional ban is clearly part of a broader agenda to ban abortion one law at a time,” Galloway said.

Galloway said Planned Parenthood wants women to make the best decision for their lives and health. Galloway suggested the state should work toward increasing access to birth control by Medicaid expansion and maintaining the Affordable Care Act’s policy of no co-pay for birth control.

Access to birth control can be affected by a woman’s work if an employer has religious beliefs that disagree with birth control, according to the decision made in the Hobby Lobby v. Burwell federal case.

Utah lawmakers passed legislation in 1991 to ban abortions at 21 weeks. Planned Parenthood, the ACLU of Utah and the Center for Reproductive Law sued Utah and won in federal appeals court, according to Galloway.

“North Carolina had a similar court decision, and reflected on our past Utah law saying it was unconstitutional,” Galloway said.

Marina Lowe, legislative and policy counsel with Utah’s ACLU, said the evidence presented by HB136 bill sponsor Rep. Cheryl Acton, R-West Jordan, that abortions can harm the mental state of women is false, according to a doctor who spoke at the legislative session.

”We do care about women’s health, both their physical health and their mental health,” Lowe said.

Acton said she anticipated the legal action that was taken against her and other representatives.  She said abortion laws should be made by states rather than in federal court like in Roe v. Wade.

“Let each state work it out to reflect the will of the people. That is the constitutionally prescribed process,” Acton said.

The case has been filed with the U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City. The ACLU has requested a preliminary injunction barring the enforcement of the bill. Without the injunction, the bill is slated to go into effect May 14.

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