Judges rule on state abortion restrictions, form Roe Impact

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah judge on Monday granted a motion by Planned Parenthood to delay implementation of the state’s trigger law banning most abortions because of the fallout from the fall of Roe v. Wade’s reverberating nationwide through the US Supreme Court.

The decision keeps abortion legal for up to 18 weeks in Utah, which is among a group of states where abortion laws have been left in limbo amid the legal and political challenges shaping the post-Roe landscape, with the States now have the power to restrict abortion.

“What I’m really doing is saying that we have serious business to discuss,” Justice Andrew Stone said after issuing an injunction delaying the trigger bill.

He said the status quo should remain in effect until a challenge from the state’s Planned Parenthood subsidiary can be fully heard.

Meanwhile, a Minnesota judge ruled most of that state’s abortion restrictions unconstitutional. In Michigan, a campaign has garnered a record number of signatures For example, voters can be asked in November’s vote whether they should enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution.

At the federal level, the Biden administration’s Department of Health and Human Services said Monday that hospitals “must” provide abortion services when the life of the mother is at risk, and said the federal law on emergency treatment guidelines anticipates state laws in jurisdictions that are now using the procedure without a ban prohibit exceptions. Currently even states with the strictest abortion bans Allowing exceptions when a mother’s health is at risk, although the threat of prosecution has confused some doctors.

Last month’s Dobbs v. Jackson verdict reversed the judgment of Roe v. Wade in 1973, which held that abortion rights were protected by the US Constitution. The matter returned to the states, sparking new court cases and voting initiatives as many states act to limit or ban abortion.

Utah is among more than a dozen states with trigger laws aimed at making abortion legal after the fall of Roe v. to limit calf. Monday’s decision comes two weeks after the court temporarily put on hold the law that bans most abortions except for those related to rape, incest or maternal health. Stone, who was appointed by a Republican governor, blocked his enforcement for 14 days after Planned Parenthood’s state branch sued. His decision effectively extends the law’s temporary ban and allows Planned Parenthood clinics to continue performing abortions until the case is resolved.

Utah attorneys argued that language in the state constitution allows for the ban on abortion, saying that delaying implementation of the trigger bill would result in overriding the will of the Utah legislature and voters. Julie Murray, Planned Parenthood’s attorney, said not delaying implementation of the law could prosecute staff and hurt about 200 patients with scheduled appointments in the coming month.

Stone granted an injunction that would allow Planned Parenthood clinics to continue offering abortion treatments — up to 18 weeks gestation under another recently passed limit — until the court rules on the constitutional issues.

The Minnesota judge ruled most state abortion restrictions unconstitutional, including a 24-hour waiting period and the requirement that both parents be notified before a minor can have an abortion. Ramsey County District Judge Thomas Gilligan also struck down requirements that only physicians can perform abortions and that post-first-trimester abortions must be performed in hospitals. His order went into effect immediately, meaning the limits cannot be enforced.

Gender Justice and other abortion rights groups argued the restrictions were unconstitutional after the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that the state’s constitution protects abortion rights. The judge called the case “significant and historic” and said he was unaffected by the US Supreme Court’s recent decision.

“These abortion laws violate the right to privacy because they violate the fundamental right of the Minnesota Constitution to access abortion care and do not stand up to rigorous scrutiny,” Gilligan wrote.

The ruling is expected to benefit patients from restrictive states who could go to Minnesota for reproductive health care. Providers have prepared for an increase in patient numbers from neighboring upper Midwest states and even further afield.

Opponents of abortion rights condemned the decision. Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life said the laws challenged in the case are “common sense measures that support and empower pregnant women” and their downfalls prevent residents from “enacting proper protections for unborn children and their mothers.” A Republican candidate for attorney general urged the Democratic attorney general to appeal.

Legal efforts to ward off the permanent closure of the state’s three abortion clinics were renewed in a Louisiana state court on Monday. A New Orleans judge last week refused to extend an injunction blocking enforcement of the state’s abortion ban, saying the case belongs after Baton Rouge.

Lawyers at a North Louisiana clinic and abortion rights group are now demanding a new injunction from a Baton Rouge judge. Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office says a restraining order cannot be renewed once it has expired.

In Arizona, a federal judge on Monday blocked a 2021 personhood law gives unborn children all legal rights. Abortion providers have argued the law could result in criminal charges such as assault or child abuse and say it is unconstitutionally vague. Judge Douglas Rayes agreed with his decision.

All abortions in Arizona halted last month, but they could resume in at least one county following the ruling.

Alongside lawsuits against bans, pro-abortion advocates are trying to add voting questions to enshrine abortion rights in state constitutions.

More than 750,000 signatures were submitted by the Michigan campaign Monday – nearly double the number needed. The Democratic governor and the attorney general in the battleground state have both made abortion rights a centerpiece of their re-election campaigns.

“The number of signatures showed that we trust women here in Michigan. We trust people. We trust doctors, not politicians, to make decisions about our bodies, pregnancy and parenthood,” said Shanay Watson-Whittaker, spokeswoman for Reproductive Freedom for All, during a news conference in Lansing.

The signatures still need to be verified and validated. A judge has temporarily blocked a 1931 Michigan law that would make abortion a crime unless it was “necessary to sustain the life of such a woman.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the law was void under the due process and equal protection clauses in the state constitution. The injunction, stemming from a Planned Parenthood lawsuit, could be revoked at any time.

Last week supporters of a last-minute effort to enshrine abortion rights in the Arizona constitution It failed to gather enough signatures for the November vote. In California, voters will decide in November whether to guarantee abortion rights in their condition. Democrats who control the government in California fear the state’s abortion laws could be vulnerable to legal challenge.

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McDermott reported from Providence, Rhode Island and Karnowski reported from St. Paul, Minnesota. Associated Press writer Kevin McGill in New Orleans and Associated Press/Report for America writer Joey Cappelletti in Lansing, Michigan contributed to this report.

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