Federal Judge Issues Temporary Restraining Order in Utah Abortion Ban Case
Last week, US District Court Judge Paul Cassell issued a temporary restraining order preventing the enforcement of Utah's abortion procedures ban for at least 10 days. Utah's abortion procedures ban, which would have gone into effect last Monday, is almost identical to the federal abortion procedures ban, which is being challenged in federal courts in San Francisco, New York, and Lincoln, Nebraska, the Deseret Morning News reports.
The Deseret Morning News went on to report that because the law was so similar to the federal ban, the state Attorney General's Office advised state legislators to delay passing the legislation for at least a year to see how the federal court cases turned out, otherwise they knew they would be facing a similar costly legal battle. Despite the warning, Utah's House and Senate passed the bill in January by wide margins. Assistant Attorney General Jerrold Jensen told the Salt Lake Tribune that the legislature worked out a plan with the Attorney General's office that they would hold the case in abeyance until the legal challenges to the federal ban were settled.
The Utah ban was an amendment removing the health exception from an earlier law that is still in effect. Both the new Utah abortion procedures ban and the federal ban are nearly identical to a Nebraska law found to be unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in the 2000 Stenberg v. Carhart ruling. The Supreme Court ruled that the Nebraska law was unconstitutional because it defines "partial-birth abortion," a non-medical term made up by anti-abortion lawmakers, so broadly that it would prohibit a wide range of abortions performed as early as the second trimester and does not provide an exception for the woman's health.
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Media Resources: Feminist Daily News Wire; Salt Lake Tribune 5/6/04; Deseret Morning News 5/6/04; ACLU 3/29/04; Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report 5/7/04