The ACLU and Planned Parenthood join forces to protect reproductive rights in Utah.

Twenty-eight years after we filed a lawsuit to stop an unconstitutional abortion ban, we did it again.

On Wednesday, April 10, the ACLU of Utah Foundation joined with the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah (PPAU) to announce a lawsuit against H.B. 136, the 18-week abortion ban passed by the Utah Legislature and signed by Governor Herbert earlier this year. Backed by dozens of supporters holding bright pink signs reading “Trust Women,” speakers from both organizations pledged to maintain the right for Utah women to access safe and legal abortion. 

“We are here today because our legislature has decided once again to attempt to curb important reproductive rights,” Leah Farrell, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Utah, told the activists and reporters assembled for the event. “And once again we are standing up to hold the line and to say, ‘We will see you in court.’” 

19 S abortion pullquoteA week later, on April 18, lawyers from Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Utah secured a preliminary injunction against State defendants to prevent enforcement of the 18-week abortion ban. This means there will be no disruption in care for Utah women seeking abortion services at or after 18 weeks while litigation proceeds in the courts. The injunction is the first positive result from our efforts to show, as many courts have already concluded, that attempts to restrict abortion before viability are clearly unconstitutional.

April’s legal action comes almost three decades after the ACLU and Planned Parenthood sued then-Governor Norm Bangerter to invalidate a 1991 Utah law that banned nearly all abortions. After a series of federal courts held that the law violated a woman’s right to end a pregnancy, that ban never took effect. 

The current lawsuit asserts that H.B. 136, like the 1991 law, interferes with a woman’s most personal medical decisions and violates fundamental constitutional principles that courts have repeatedly affirmed. The Utah Legislature’s recent 18-week ban adds to the long list of restrictive abortion policies already enacted in Utah. For example, Utah requires people seeking abortion health care to complete a state-mandated online module and a consultation session designed to discourage them from pursuing this option, and then wait 72 hours before receiving abortion care. 

“Our Utah lawmakers decided they couldn’t be left out of this trend to attempt to chip away at Roe v. Wade,” Karrie Galloway, President and CEO of PPAU, explained at the press conference. “They are willing to waste hard-earned taxpayer dollars to control the private medical decisions of Utah women. All while doing nearly nothing to actually improve the health of Utahns.” 

The costs of defending against a lawsuit are not insignificant. States that enact unconstitutional laws to restrict abortion access can be required to pay attorneys’ fees for health providers and patients forced to defend their constitutional rights in court. In this case, the Utah Attorney General’s office estimates that responding to a lawsuit could cost Utah taxpayers $2 million or more. While the case moves through the courts, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood will bear the cost of the litigation. However, access to safe and legal abortion care is a fundamental right, and defending constitutional freedoms is a battle we are always willing to fight.

STAY INFORMED: Follow the legal developments and public events related to the lawsuit, Planned Parenthood Association of Utah v. Miner, at this website:

...from the Spring 2019 Liberty Reporter