Six months ago we filed a lawsuit to stop the state’s 18-week abortion ban. Here’s where it stands.
On Wednesday, April 10, the ACLU of Utah Foundation joined with the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah to file a lawsuit in federal court to block H.B. 136—the state’s 18-week abortion ban passed during the 2019 legislative session. At the press conference at the Utah Capitol announcing the lawsuit, ACLU of Utah Senior Staff Attorney Leah Farrell reminded the audience that we successfully challenged a similar 22-week ban in the 1990s, adding “And once again we are standing up to hold the line and to say, ‘we will see you in court.’”
A week later on April 18, a federal district court in Utah entered a preliminary injunction to stop the 18-week ban from taking effect—ensuring that Utahns could continue to seek the abortion health care they need while the lawsuit is progressing. This legal step was vital in keeping access to abortion unchanged in Utah, and it followed the same pattern playing out in a half dozen other states facing similar legislative attempts to ban abortion, including Missouri, Georgia, and Ohio.
But after this early flurry of activity in the lawsuit, the pace slowed during the summer, causing some of our supporters to forget that Utah is embroiled in a legal battle to keep abortion safe and accessible. Our attorneys have been very busy, however. On June 20, the court granted the state defendants’ request for discovery, a legal process where both sides seek documents and other information related to the case.
Both the ACLU of Utah and Planned Parenthood opposed the state’s request for discovery because it would unnecessarily delay the resolution of the lawsuit. Although the court granted the state’s request for partial discovery, the judge stressed that the decision did not reflect how he would ultimately rule in the case. Since that time, our attorneys have been engaged in gathering documents and other discovery actions, which has lengthened the lawsuit by several months. However, by February 2020, we expect to be able to ask the court for summary judgment—making our case for a final ruling that Utah’s 18-week abortion ban is unconstitutional.
…from the Fall 2019 Liberty Reporter