The Utah Attorney General's Office will file a motion in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver next week to re-argue the merits of an appeal of Utah's 1991 law restricting abortions after the 20th week of gestation.
Briefs have already been filed in the case and oral arguments presented once. But that was before the state won a key argument before the U.S. Supreme Court and the case was remanded back to the appeals court for further consideration."This is a cutting-edge case for the nation," Utah Attorney General Jan Graham said, adding that oral arguments deserve to be heard.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the appeals court was wrong when it threw out one part of the state's abortion law just because another part of the same law had been found unconstitutional. The high court ruled the two issues should be considered separately because the state Legislature had specifically intended that both issues stand independently.
"They (Supreme Court justices) made it black-and-white clear that if Part A doesn't make it, Part B stands," Graham told state lawmakers Wednesday. "You can safely say this court was angry (at the 10th Circuit Court)."
The court ruling holds in abeyance a state appeal of $400,000 in attorney fees awarded to the American Civil Liberties Union. If the state loses on the reconsideration of the appeal, it would still have to pay the attorney fees.
But even then, the state would likely appeal its loss to the U.S. Supreme Court, just as the ACLU would likely appeal if the state prevails.
"There has been so much invested for so long," Graham said. "We want finality."
Federal Judge J. Thomas Greene ruled that most of the state's 1991 abortion law was unconstitutional. But he kept intact a portion of the law that allowed the state to restrict abortions after 20 weeks gestation to only those cases where there was serious threat to the mother's health or in cases of grave birth defects. The ruling was appealed, and the 10th Circuit Court ruled that because one portion of the law was unconstitutional, all of it was unconstitutional.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning that decision did not address whether or not the restrictions on abortions after 20 weeks is constitutional. And it is that point the Attorney General's Office wants to argue before the appeals court.