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Utah's 'trigger law' would almost completely end legal abortion

Demonstrators protest outside the Supreme Court in Washington Friday, June 24.
Jacquelyn Martin
Demonstrators protest outside the Supreme Court in Washington Friday, June 24.

The state Legislature passed a “trigger law” two years ago that almost completely ends access to abortion services in Utah. That law could soon be implemented now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overruled Roe v. Wade.

In 2020, Utah’s Legislature anticipated the Supreme Court would send the power to regulate abortions back to the states. So lawmakers passed SB 174, which bans abortions in Utah except in limited circumstances.

Those circumstances include if the abortion is necessary to protect the life of the mother, if two doctors agree the fetus has a life-threatening deformity or if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest. Abortions are also allowed to prevent a substantial and irreversible impairment of a mother’s bodily function.

The bill becomes effective when the Legislature’s general counsel certifies a higher court has ruled that states can prohibit abortion.

On Friday,the ACLU of Utah said it will fight back against anti-abortion policies, noting that even though a majority of Utahns support access to abortion care, state politicians have continuously passed laws that delay and obstruct access to care.

Meanwhile,Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said the Supreme Court’s decision has returned the question of abortion to the states, and his office will defend the state law against any legal challenges.

Violating Utah’s trigger law is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. And any clinic or physician involved could lose their license.