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While some are elated and look to Utah’s trigger law, others mourn the fall of Roe v. Wade

The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of State
The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

UPDATE: All elective abortions are now banned in Utah. The Utah legislature’s general counsel has affirmed the state’s trigger law could go into effect after it was determined the legal requirements were met following the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade. Abortions will only be allowed in rare cases involving rape, incest or medical emergency.

Our original story continues below.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision triggers a ban on nearly all abortions in Utah. The state law passed back in 2020 does have three narrow exceptions.

“Today is a dark day,” said Karrie Galloway, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah. “I have to admit, we've all been planning on this, especially since the leaked opinion happened about six weeks ago. But to have [it be] a reality, it's a real blow.”

Galloway emphasized business will continue as usual until the trigger law is certified. That might come in a few days or weeks as the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel interprets the law.

In Utah, there are currently three Planned Parenthood clinics that provide medical abortions alongside the separate Wastach Women’s Center.

The immediate effects of this decision will restrict those who can get pregnant the right to choose their reproductive health care, Galloway said. It will largely impact people who already face barriers to health care like people of color, individuals with low incomes, the LGBTQ+ community and people living in rural areas.

“This is a whole new world,” Galloway said. “We have had 50 years of Roe v. Wade being the law of the land. And we have worked to make sure the letter and the spirit of the law, no matter what obstacles or hoops they put in the way, we made sure we complied with the law. …With the trigger ban [law], access in Utah — I don't know how they're going to enforce that, and I don't think they know how they're going to enforce it yet.”

Now people would have to travel to states like Nevada, Colorado, or New Mexico for the procedure.

“People deserve to get their health care in their own community, not put a seven-hour drive to get your health care. But that's what we'll be facing,” Galloway said.

Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson released a joint statement emphasizing their dedication to giving voice to “the most vulnerable in our society, including the unborn.”

“We wholeheartedly support this Supreme Court ruling and are encouraged to see abortion law will be left to elected state representatives. As pro-life advocates, this administration is equally committed to supporting women and families in Utah. We all need to do more to support mothers, pregnant women, and children facing poverty and trauma.”

Though she appreciates those final words, Galloway wants to see effective change like comprehensive sex education or funding for reproductive health care.

“Where have they been for the past three years when we've had a bill in the legislature to expand Medicaid for birth control? They turn the other cheek,” she said. “Where have they been when more money was needed for prenatal care? They've turned the other cheek. Where have they been? For people who have challenging families, situations where they need help, services, money. They've turned their backs. I'm sorry. Platitudes don't go very far. Let's see some action.”

Mary Taylor, president of Pro-Life Utah, said they’ve been waiting for this day for a while.

“We're very excited that the decision is official, right? We thought we knew where it was going, but you never know. I think the level of excitement, of joy, and gratitude is just off the charts.”

Taylor had previously had an abortion. To her, it’s not an empowering thing at all. She said her organization is committed to helping people who face a difficult decision.

“We acknowledge an unplanned pregnancy is a very difficult time and that we believe that we should empower women, come together and give her what she needs,” she said.

In a statement, Utah Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, the sponsor of the Utah trigger ban, said he felt encouraged by the decision.

“We are finally recognizing and acknowledging the scientific facts of the matter — that a fetus is a human life,” he said. “By recognizing this truth, we can take steps to overcome our nation’s greatest atrocity and find better ways to support both mothers and children. Now is the time to unite to provide resources and educate about alternative options readily available, such as adoption. I remain steadfast in being unapologetically pro-life and in my support for mothers, families and children.”

The ACLU of Utah said they are working with partners and providers to respond to this ruling and fight back.

In the meantime, Galloway said they are trying to help people figure out what can happen next. Some people have already set up an abortion fund to help others get access.

“We can't guarantee that you'll get what you need, but we can help you work your way through the problem,” she said.

Updated: June 24, 2022 at 7:07 PM MDT
This story was updated to note that the Utah Legislature's general counsel has affirmed the state's trigger law and abortion is now banned.
Ivana is a general assignment reporter
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