GOP Utah Gov. Cox signs new law to effectively ban abortion clinics in state starting in 2024

March 17, 2023
Ben Marquis

Following the Supreme Court's 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade, numerous Republican-led states have taken legislative action to further restrict or even completely ban the practice of abortion.

Utah is one such state, and Gov. Spencer Cox (R) on Wednesday signed into law a bill that will effectively outlaw abortion clinics in the state, Breitbart reported.

Once the law takes effect, assuming it is first blocked by the courts, any abortions performed in the state would have to be done at a licensed general hospital.

Major abortion bill signed into law

Breitbart reported that the bill, known as HB0467, was passed by Utah's GOP-controlled House and Senate earlier this month and was sent to Gov. Cox for his approval nearly two weeks ago.

Now that the measure bears his signature, beginning in May the state will no longer approve new or renew expired licenses for abortion clinics, and existing clinics with unexpired licenses will be required to cease providing abortions in January 2024.

The law also forbids anyone who isn't a licensed doctor from performing an abortion or prescribing abortion pills, requires doctors to inform mothers of alternatives to abortion for unborn babies with life-threatening conditions, ends exceptions for incest and rape after 18 weeks of pregnancy, and provides for doctors who violate the new law to be disciplined for unprofessional conduct.

Governor said he would sign bill weeks ago

ABC News reported that the new law also more clearly defines the term "abortion" as used in the statutory language to help clear up some purported confusion in the wake of a pair of "trigger" laws that immediately went into effect last year following the Supreme Court's ruling.

The first of those, initially passed in 2019, is the law that is currently in effect now, and it allows for abortions up to 18 weeks after conception, albeit with the standard exceptions for rape, incest, and the health of the mother.

Another law passed in 2020 would completely ban abortions at any point in a pregnancy, but it was blocked with an injunction and remains on hold while a lawsuit proceeds.

The outlet noted that Gov. Cox signaled that he intended to sign the bill when he first received it around two weeks ago, and said at that time of the redefining of the "abortion" term, "One of the concerns with the trigger bill that medical providers had across the state was there a lack of clarity that would have made it hard for them to perform legal abortions."

Planned Parenthood exploring options

Of course, while pro-life activists were thrilled that Gov. Cox signed the bill into law, abortion advocates and providers were predictably furious and denounced the new law for, in effect, rendering it nearly impossible, or at least making it very expensive, for women to obtain an abortion in the state.

The Associated Press reported that Planned Parenthood, which operates three out of the four currently licensed abortion clinics in the state, said that it intends to continue to provide its other non-abortion services at its locations once the law goes into effect, and is exploring options within the language of the new law to possibly remain licensed to provide "hospital-equivalent services."

The Utah Hospital Association has declined to stake out a position thus far on the new law, but in light of the fact that virtually all abortions going forward will have to be performed in a licensed general hospital -- typically for higher costs than in an outpatient clinic -- it is worth noting that hospitals did not perform a single elective abortion last year out of the estimated 2,800-plus procedures performed in the state.

Whether this law will actually be allowed to go into effect or will be blocked by the courts is something that remains to be seen at this point.

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