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Utah judge considers delaying abortion clinic ban set to take effect next week

A Utah judge on Friday will consider a request from Planned Parenthood to delay implementing a statewide ban on abortion clinics set to begin taking effect next week.

Planned Parenthood argues a state law passed earlier this year will effectively end access to abortion throughout the state when clinics next week stop being able to apply for the licenses they’ve historically relied on to operate.

The organization operates three of Utah’s four clinics that provide abortions. It argues that, with the clinic ban, the Utah Legislature “sought an alternative means” to further restrict abortions while awaiting a state Supreme Court ruling on a “trigger law” that would outlaw most abortions regardless of trimester.

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“Women will be forced to carry pregnancies to term against their will; to remain pregnant until they can travel out of state to access this critical, time-sensitive medical care … or to attempt to self-manage their abortions outside the medical system,” Planned Parenthood said in its motion requesting the court delay implementing the clinic ban earlier this month.

The ban on clinics is Utah lawmakers‘ latest effort to restrict abortions and comes less than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. That decision triggered two previously passed laws — a 2019 ban on abortion after 18 weeks and a 2020 ban on abortions regardless of trimester, with several exceptions including instances of risk to maternal health as well as rape or incest reported to the police.

Planned Parenthood clinic

A Planned Parenthood clinic is seen on June 28, 2022, in Salt Lake City, Utah. A Utah court will consider a request from Planned Parenthood to delay implementing a statewide ban on abortion clinics. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

The state Planned Parenthood affiliate sued over the 2020 ban. Last July, a judge delayed implementing it until legal challenges could be resolved. The 18-week ban has since been de facto law.

If the clinic ban takes effect, the delicensing of clinics will transition most abortions to hospitals, which generally do not specialize in low-cost outpatient abortions, including providing the abortion pill. In Utah, clinics provide 95% of abortions.

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The law is set to take effect May 3, at which time abortion clinics will no longer be able to apply to be licensed. It would institute a full ban on Jan. 1, 2024, by stripping all clinics of their licenses.

Though state officials have said clinic licenses will remain until then, Planned Parenthood has warned that it reads the law differently and fears exposing clinicians to legal liability and make providing abortions a crime. They have said that, absent intervention, they plan to stop providing abortions at their clinics.

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