It's almost become a ritual: an abortion lawsuit filed here every other year.

The New York lawyers who sued Utah in 1991 and 1993 over its abortion laws notified the state Friday that a third lawsuit may be filed in early 1995.In a hand-delivered letter, the Center for Reproductive Freedom notified state officials that unless Utah starts using Medicaid to fund abortions for poor women pregnant from rape or incest, the center will sue.

Jan Graham hadn't seen the notice as of 2:45 p.m. Friday. But Solicitor General Carol Clawson had.

Clawson will review the notice, then discuss it with Graham, who will then discuss it with the governor and other state officials, probably next week, said Palmer DePaulis, spokesman for Graham.

Although he had not seen Friday's notice, Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt has previously said the state should not be required to pay for such abortions.

"It is a legal choice for them to (have an abortion), but the question is whether the state should be on record as paying for them," Leavitt said in April. Using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions is "not an abortion question but a state's rights issues."

Leavitt has also previously pointed out that the Medicaid/abortion order was made by a midlevel political appointee in the Clinton adminstration. When many states balked, citing state primacy, a federal judge ruled that Colorado must comply with the order, even though the state constitution prohibited the expenditure of tax funds on abortions.

"Something is seriously wrong when the ruling of an appointed bureaucrat takes precedence over state constitutions," Leavitt said at the time.

Friday's notice of legal action warned Utah that the center has had success on the issue in federal courts in Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana and Nebraska.

The courts in those states have apparently ruled that the states must obey the federal mandate requiring the states to fund such abortions or lose millions of dollars in federal Medicaid money.

The center is "basically saying, `We've had the courts rule in our favor in eight other states and now we're turning our attention to Utah and putting you on notice.' "

The center has already hired local lawyers to assist them with the Utah lawsuit.

De Paulis predicted quick attention from state officials. "The attorney general will want to speak to the governor and the state agencies that are involved in this issue to make a determination on what course of action to take," he said.

All options are still on the table, he said.

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President Clinton last year ordered all states to begin paying for Medicaid abortions in cases of rape or incest after March 31 or risk losing billions of dollars in Medicaid funding. At the time, 37 states had barriers to paying for abortions for victims of rape or incest.

Friday's letter marks the second time the center has threatened to sue over the matter. Planned Parenthood of Utah officials told Leavitt in April that the state could be sued within two weeks if it didn't follow the mandate.

Instead, the center, which represents the Utah organization, focused on other states first, staff attorney Eve Gartner told the Deseret News earlier this year.

April estimates showed that three to five abortions a year would qualify for federal funding.

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