How could the Supreme Court ruling on abortion in Mississippi impact Utah laws?

Local Politics

A US flag is held by a marcher in front of trhe Supreme during the March for Life on January 24, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.The march marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade (officially Jan. 22), a landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. AFP PHOTO / Tim Sloan (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP via Getty Images)

(ABC4) – As the nation’s highest court prepares to hear a major rollback on abortion rights in Mississippi, local groups on both sides are anxious for the result.

The ruling could reverberate in Utah, as the precedent set in Mississippi could impact the federal court’s decision on a similar proposal in the Beehive State.

On Monday, it was reported the Supreme Court would consider Mississippi’s ban on abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. That law had been blocked by lower courts as inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent that protects a woman’s right to obtain an abortion before the fetus can survive outside her womb.

Utah has had arguments over a similar law for months, albeit with the ban in place after the 18th week of pregnancy. The case is expected to reach the federal courts in the fall.

Many expect the Supreme Court’s ruling to lean on the conservative side of the political spectrum, based on several Justice appointments by former President Donald Trump. A more conservative Supreme Court is in place, following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett as her replacement. Badar Ginsberg was a vehement abortion rights champion, while Barrett has been openly pro-life in her previous rulings as a judge.

The ruling that the Supreme Court reaches on Mississippi’s ban would set a major precedent across the nation. Abortion rights have been a hot-button issue since the court first announced a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion in 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision and then reaffirmed it in 1992.

As for now, both Pro Life Utah and the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah are in a “wait-and-see” pattern.

“It’s troubling,” Kerrie Galloway, president of Planned Parenthood of Utah, tells ABC4. “This state has also looked at pushing the boundaries, even though we don’t even have any national family planning money in the state. As a public health professional, that we’re doing nothing to help families.”

Galloway is concerned the state may make a landmark ruling on abortion while at the same time, doing little, in her mind, to provide programs such as sex education, contraceptives, or abortion clinics.

Folks on the other side of the coin, such as Mary Taylor, who serves as the president of Pro-Life Utah, are less troubled about a ruling from Washington, seeing a more conservative Supreme Court as a positive.

“Abortion is a similar situation where we are, we are talking about women’s rights and neglecting the rights of another living human being,” Taylor tells ABC4. “So, we certainly believe that any move in the Supreme Court that might be more favorable to protecting the basic fundamental human rights, the right to life, is a good thing.”

Utah’s 18-week abortion ban was passed into law after a 23-6 vote in the state senate on March 13, 2019, and signed by then-Gov. Gary Herbert. The enforcement has since been in a hold as both supporting and opposing parties agreed to wait until the case resolved at trial. For now, eyes are on Mississippi and Washington D.C. to make a decision on their case. What happens there, will impact arguments on Utah’s case.

“If it were to be that the Supreme Court upheld this 15-week ban, then we would certainly be on solid ground with our 18-week bill,” explains Taylor.

Whether it’s 15 weeks into pregnancy for Mississippi or 18 weeks for Utah, Taylor feels that setting a strict time limit will get the ball rolling on larger pro-life changes to the law.

“The 15-week and 18-week ban is certainly not the ideal, but it is a step in the right direction,” Taylor says. “It is a step into recognizing and acknowledging that these unborn babies are human beings, they have pain perception and they by all rights should be protected.”

Galloway however, feels that number was formulated “out of thin air.”

“I’m a public health professional. I don’t work on arbitrary,” she says. “I work on science, and I work on needs for families and health care, and the strength of families. And so, I’m concerned.”

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