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Louisiana, Utah Abortion Bans Temporarily Paused by State Judges

June 27, 2022, 11:53 PM

Judges in Louisiana and Utah temporarily blocked statewide abortion bans that were set to take effect after last week’s US Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

Orders issued Monday keep the so-called trigger laws on hold into early July -- and allow abortions to continue -- while legal fights play out.

“The Supreme Court ruling was devastating and terrifying for our patients and providers, but at least for now, Utahns will be able to get the care they need,” Karrie Galloway, president of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, said in a statement. “Today is a win, but it is only the first step in what will undoubtedly be a long and difficult fight.”

Louisiana and Utah are two of 13 states identified by the Guttmacher Institute as having laws banning abortions that were designed to kick in automatically once Roe v. Wade was overturned. The high court’s June 24 decision wiped out two seminal cases recognizing a constitutional right to abortion before viability.

Read More: Texas Sued by ACLU Over ‘Antiquated’ Pre-Roe Abortion Ban

In South Carolina, meanwhile, a federal judge cleared the way for the state to enforce its law outlawing abortions after the point at which a fetal heartbeat is detected. The measure includes exceptions allowing abortions in cases of rape or incest, as long as the fetus is fewer than 20 weeks along, and in cases in which an abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother, according to a statement by the state’s attorney general.

Utah’s trigger ban was passed by the state’s legislature in 2020. Doctors in Utah who violate the law face a second-degree felony charge and prison terms of one-to-15 years as well as criminal fines and loss of their professional license, according to Planned Parenthood’s legal challenge.

In Louisiana, Judge Robin M. Giarrusso of the Orleans Parish Civil District Court scheduled a hearing on a preliminary injunction for early July.

June Medical, which does business as Hope Medical Group for Women, is one of only three abortion providers in Louisiana. It’s fighting to invalidate three separate laws that purport to completely ban abortion, claiming they are unconstitutionally vague.

The provider said conflicting statements issued by state and local officials have made it unclear which trigger laws are in effect. Beyond that, it’s impossible to tell what conduct the laws prohibit, what exceptions apply, and the criminal penalties they impose, given the laws’ inconsistencies, June Medical said.

For example, a law adopted in 2006 imposes a fine of not more than $1,000, up to two years in prison, or both, June Medical said. The second ban sets a minimum one-year jail term, with a maximum of 10 years, and a mandatory fine of not less than $10,000. The third law -- which sets a 15-week gestational age limit for abortions -- sets a maximum 15-year prison term and a fine of no less than $20,000, according to the provider’s court petition.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Mary Anne Pazanowski in Washington at mpazanowski@bloomberglaw.com;
Malathi Nayak in San Francisco at mnayak21@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Katia Porzecanski at kporzecansk1@bloomberg.net

Carmen Castro-Pagán, Peter Blumberg

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.