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Judges rule on state abortion restrictions, shape Roe impact

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah judge on Monday granted a request from Planned Parenthood to delay implementation of the state’s trigger law that bans most abortions, as the implications of Roe v. Wade’s destruction by the US Supreme Court reverberate across the country.

With the decision, abortion will remain legal for up to 18 weeks in Utah, one of the states where abortion rights have been cast in limbo amid the legal and political challenges shaping the post-Roe landscape, with states now holding the power to allow abortions. to limit .

“What I’m really doing is saying we have serious things to talk about,” Judge Andrew Stone said after giving an injunction delaying the trigger law.

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

Meanwhile, a Minnesota judge declared most of that state’s restrictions on abortion unconstitutional. In Michigan, a campaign generated a record number of signatures so voters can be asked in the November vote if they want to include abortion rights in the state constitution. And federally, the Biden government’s Department of Health and Human Services said on Monday that hospitals “should” provide abortion services if the mother’s life is at risk, saying the federal law on emergency care guidelines takes precedence over state laws in jurisdictions that now prohibit the procedure without any 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 ruling Dobbs v. Jackson overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that found that the right to abortion was protected by the U.S. Constitution. The matter returned to the states and sparked new lawsuits and voting initiatives, as many states act to curtail or ban abortions.

Utah is one of more than a dozen states with trigger laws designed to restrict abortion in the overthrow of Roe v. Wade. Monday’s decision comes two weeks after the court temporarily overturned the law banning most abortions except rape, incest or maternal health. Stone, who was appointed by a Republican governor, blocked enforcement for 14 days after the state branch of Planned Parenthood filed suit. His decision effectively extends the temporary hold on the law and allows Planned Parenthood clinics to continue providing abortions until the matter is resolved.

Utah attorneys argued that language in the state constitution allows abortions to be banned and said delaying implementation of the trigger law would be tantamount to overruling the will of the Utah legislature and voters. Planned Parenthood attorney Julie Murray said not delaying implementation of the law would expose her staff to criminal charges and could harm about 200 patients with scheduled appointments over the next month.

Stone has issued a preliminary injunction allowing Planned Parenthood clinics to continue providing abortion care — up to 18 weeks gestation under another recently expired limit — until the court rules on the constitutional questions.

Minnesota judge declared most state restrictions on abortion unconstitutional, including a 24-hour waiting period and a requirement that both parents be notified before a minor can have an abortion. Ramsey County District Judge Thomas Gilligan also demanded that only physicians be allowed to perform abortions and that abortions must be performed in hospitals after the first trimester. His order took effect immediately, meaning the limits cannot be enforced.

Gender Justice and other abortion rights groups argued that the restrictions were unconstitutional, according to a 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court that ruled that the state constitution protects abortion rights. The judge called the case “important and historic” and said it is unaffected by the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

“These abortion laws violate the right to privacy because they violate the fundamental right under the Minnesota Constitution to access abortion care and cannot withstand strict 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 a wave of patients from neighboring states in the upper Midwest, and even further afield.

Opponents of abortion rights condemned the decision. Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life said the laws being challenged in the case are “common sense measures that support and empower pregnant women” and taking them down blocks residents from “reasonable protections for unborn children and their mothers.” A Republican attorney general nominee called on the Democratic attorney general to appeal.

In a Louisiana court on Monday, legal efforts were renewed to prevent the permanent closure of the state’s three abortion clinics. A judge in New Orleans last week refused to extend a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of the state’s abortion ban, saying the case belonged in Baton Rouge.

Lawyers for a Northern Louisiana clinic and an abortion rights group are now seeking a new restraining order from a Baton Rouge judge. Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office says a temporary restraining order cannot be extended once it has expired.

In addition to lawsuits to challenge bans, abortion rights advocates are trying to add voting questions to enshrine abortion rights in state constitutions.

The Michigan campaign on Monday garnered more than 750,000 signatures, nearly double the number needed. The Democratic governor and attorney general in the battlefield state have both made abortion rights a focal point of their reelection campaigns.

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

The signatures have yet to be verified and validated. A judge has temporarily blocked a 1931 Michigan law that would make abortion a felony except when “necessary to preserve such a woman’s life.”

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has said the law is invalid under the due process and equal protection clauses of the state constitution. The ban, which stems from a Planned Parenthood lawsuit, can be revoked at any time.

Last week, proponents of a last-minute effort to enshrine abortion rights in the Arizona Constitution failed to collect enough signatures for the November vote. California voters will decide in November whether to guarantee abortion rights in their constitution. Democrats controlling the California government fear the state’s abortion laws could be vulnerable to legal challenges.

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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