Lawmakers signing abortion letter, others stepping away
SALT LAKE CITY — A letter published and signed by multiple Utah lawmakers says they will charge anyone who provides abortions, despite the current hold on Utah’s abortion trigger law. And while several lawmakers signed the letter, others are changing their minds.
In the letter, two sponsors of Utah’s trigger law claim that abortion remains a criminal offense and that, right now, is a felony. A judge has put that trigger law on hold while lawyers argue its constitutionality. This group of lawmakers argues that once it takes effect, the state will prosecute every abortion case dating back to the Supreme Court’s decision a few months ago.
A spokeswoman for the House of Representatives says Utah’s 18-week trigger ban is still in effect, however. Representatives KariAnne Lisonbee and Kera Birkeland are promising a new law that will automatically revoke the licenses of any doctor violating the trigger law while it’s in court.
Here’s the full letter from @KeraBirk and @UtahKarianne claiming abortions are illegal in Utah and warning Utah doctors about criminal penalties. The law banning abortions is actually on hold, the law that’s in effect allows abortions until 18 weeks. #utpol @kslnewsradio pic.twitter.com/yW82ZJLtE3
— Lindsay Aerts (@LindsayOnAir) September 16, 2022
At least one legal analyst says Thursday’s warning doesn’t hold water. The letter is not from the entire House of Representatives, but rather from 22 representatives and two candidates running for seats in the Utah House.
Planned Parenthood of Utah and the ACLU of Utah released a joint statement calling the letter a “stunt to further harass abortion providers and stigmatize patients who need care.”
One lawmaker has since stepped away from the letter.
Representative Steven Handy says the letter was not what he thought it was when he signed it. Handy said he believes that currently abortions up to 18 weeks are still legal.
He spoke on Jeff Caplan’s Afternoon News and said the letter was harsher than he realized. He does however still maintain support for the trigger law he voted for.
KSL Legal Analyst Greg Skordas said the lawmakers backing this letter are, legally, in the wrong.
“The (trigger) law has been stayed. It is not the current Utah law. An older trigger law is in place, which allows for the procedure to occur up to 18 weeks,” Skordas said. “But what they’re saying is that the original law that’s been stayed is the law of the land and in my opinion that’s just absolutely not true.”
But he admits the letter may still have impact.
“I think it’s probably making a lot of these providers very nervous,” Skordas told KSL NewsRadio. ”
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