State attorneys are seeking to ban from trial the written testimonies of dozens of Utah women who have received abortions.
The written testimonies detailing the abortion experiences of several women in Utah and surrounding states were filed months after the December deadline for identifying witnesses, state attorneys argued in their written motion to have the women's testimonies stricken from court record.U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene is holding a daylong hearing Friday to hear oral arguments on this and other motions related to the lawsuit. State attorney Mary Anne Q. Wood has asked Greene to either dismiss the case or decide it in the state's favor without taking the matter to trial.
Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union filed 41 affidavits last week, most of them from anonymous women who either detailed the circumstances surrounding their own abortions or explained why they believe women have a legal right to seek an abortion.
"Plaintiffs have violated the court's very explicit orders by bringing additional, unauthorized witnesses before the court," the state said. The ACLU identified only two of the 41 people as witnesses before the December deadline, said the state's motion.
The affidavits also should be stricken because 23 of the 41 affidavits were submitted under pseudonyms. Pseudonyms can only be used when authorized by the court, and the court did not authorize these pseudonyms, Wood argued.
A Utah woman who obtained an illegal abortion 20 years ago submitted her affidavit under the pseudonym Gwen Harris. She explained that when she became pregnant at 23 she was unmarried, destitute and already had one child. She contacted a Salt Lake doctor she knew performed illegal abortions.
The doctor took her to his basement and performed the abortion without anesthesia, according to her affidavit.
A few other affidavits discussed either illegal abortions or self-abortions. However, most women who submitted affidavits talked about legal abortions in Utah and elsewhere.
The majority of those who submitted affidavits about their abortions had more than one.One married woman aborted her pregnancy after her husband was called to duty in Desert Storm. "Financially, it was essential that I keep my job to support our family," she said in her affidavit. The woman had earlier conceived another child with the same man and aborted it, too.
State attorneys argue that these new witnesses were introduced into the case after the deadline had passed for both sides to interview each other's witnesses.
Greene did authorize plaintiffs' attorney Janet Benshoof to admit new witnesses shortly before trial who would be pregnant and seeking an abortion. These witnesses would represent all Utah women in a similar situation.
However, Wood argued in her motion that none of the 41 affidavits qualified for that exception. The women desirous of an abortion already obtained them. Many of the abortions were obtained as late as last month.
All affidavits but four should be stricken, Wood argued in the motion.