The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to consider arguments by Utah's two abortion clinics against a 1993 state law requiring a 24-hour waiting period before a woman can get an abortion. The ruling means no further appeals are possible on that requirement.
Without comment, on Monday the court denied a motion for certiorari in the case, meaning the justices would not consider over-turning a decision by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals court, based in Denver, had ruled that the clinics were too slow in challenging a ruling by U.S. District Judge Dee Benson that upheld the law."Typically, when the district court enters a ruling, the parties are allowed a particular amount (of time) to file a notice of appeal," said Assistant Utah Attorney General Todd Utzinger. In this case, Benson upheld the statute on Feb. 1, 1994, ruling that the law is constitutional.
He also ordered that the Utah Women's Clinic and the Wasatch Women's Center must pay $73,507 to reimburse the state for legal costs in the matter. Benson ruled that the suit was frivolous because it flew in the face of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on a similar Pennsylvania law. The clinics asked Benson to reconsider the rulings on the fees and the constitutionality issue.
"He refused to rescind that order and insisted that they pay attorney fees to the state," Utzinger said. Lawyers for the clinics - represented by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Law & Policy - ran out of time before they appealed the constitutional issues.
Even if the highest court had considered the merits of the center's arguments, the 1993 law would have been upheld, Utzinger believes. According to Benson's ruling, the Utah and Pennsylvania laws involved are "nearly word-for-word identical."
The 1993 Utah abortion law was followed by a statute this year that has a stricter requirement about the type of information that must be given to a woman before she has an abortion. Presumably, if the '96 law were to be overturned, the earlier rule on the 24-hour notification would remain in force.