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UTAH ABORTION LAW STILL UNDER FIRE

Utah's abortion law is no longer the strictest in the nation, but that doesn't mean the attention or hostility focused on Utah now will ebb.

The American Civil Liberty Union's anger certainly won't fade."The ACLU is committed to fighting these terrible laws everywhere and anywhere that they are passed," said Michele Parish, president of the Utah ACLU chapter. "Utah's law is still a horrible law. The fact that somebody else had the bad judgement to pass a law even worse doesn't make Utah's law any better. We will fight Utah's law locally and nationally."

Hostility from the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood won't dissipate either, Parish said. Most of that hostility was triggered by comments Utah leaders made and not Utah's abortion law, she said.

"When you have public officials calling feminists and members of the ACLU 'fringe group' and telling them they aren't welcome in Utah," boycotts are inevitable, Parish said. The public's response is 'Great. We'll take our conversations somewhere else. We'll spend out money somewhere else. We'll build our company somewhere else," Parish said.

Louisiana's new law may invite similar responses, but it won't soften the anger toward Utah, she said.

Media interest in Utah's law probably won't fade either. Every time either side in the Liberty vs. Bangerter battle over the law makes a court appearance or files a brief, media somewhere in the nation report it, said Miles Holman, the attorney representing the state in the ACLU suit. "I have never seen anything like it. I don't think it's likely to go away with Louisiana's new law."

Some legal analysts nationally say the U.S. Supreme Court will use the Louisiana law to test its 1974 Roe vs. Wade decision that a woman's right to an abortion was protected by the U.S. Constitution.

But soldiers in the local abortion war believes the ACLU's Liberty vs. Bangerter challenge to Utah's law is still bound for the high court.

"The abortion cases will probably reach the Supreme Court in chronological order," said John Clark, legal counsel to Utah Attorney General Paul Van Dam.

"So even though Louisiana is the focus of national attention right now, the chances are that Pennsylvania's, Guam's or Utah's laws will be considered first," he said.

Utah's law may be chosen for review by the high court because of its moderation, Clark said. "The court will probably be looking for a test case they can live with. One that is most likely the swing vote's preference. That will probably be one of the more moderate laws."

Court watchers say if the justices overrule Roe vs. Wade, the swing vote will come from Sandra Day O'Connor or David Souter.

Two years ago, the court allowed a state abortion law stricter than Roe vs. Wade to stand, and states have been enacting increasingly stricter laws since.

Since each law is a little bit different from the other, the court could review each of them, Holman said. "Of course, if the strict one is found constitutional, the less strict one would certainly be constitutional."

One thing that certainly won't abate in the face of Louisiana's action is Utah's fight to get the name "Jane Liberty" dropped in favor of a more neutral pseudonym.

As long as Utah's law has landmark potential -- and it still does despite Louisiana's action -- "Jane Liberty" is a pseudonym that embarrasses the state, Holman said.

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How laws compare

Utah's law bans abortions except in the cases of rape and incest reported to the police, or when the continuance of a pregnancy threatens the health or life of the mother.

Louisiana's law bans abortions except in the cases of rape and incest that are reported to police within a week after the crime was committed. The law permits abortion when a mother's life is threatened by her pregnancy but makes no allowance for threat to the health of the mother. Doctors who perform illegal abortions face a $100,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.