SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert on Monday signed into law a bill to ban abortions in Utah after 18 weeks.
Utah previously allowed abortions up to 22 weeks gestation, but many Utah doctors drew the line at 21 weeks to avoid risk of violating the law. HB136, sponsored by Rep. Cheryl Acton, R-Salt Lake City, originally set the limit for legal abortions at 15 weeks gestation, but the bill was revised in the House.
Support for the bill came despite the likelihood it will be challenged in court.
Across the U.S., new efforts are brewing to challenge Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that established abortion as a constitutional right. Mississippi last year passed a 15-week abortion law, with exceptions for medical emergency or severe fetal abnormality, but a federal judge blocked it.
Acton's bill passed out of Utah's House and Senate mostly along party lines, despite Democrats' attempts to argue for a woman's right to decide whether to have an abortion.
Herbert, who has called himself a "pro-life guy," said last month he would review the bill before determining whether to sign it but noted that scientific advancements may warrant another look at abortion laws.
The ACLU of Utah and Planned Parenthood announced in a joint statement Monday they will challenge the ban in court, calling it unconstitutional.
"This ban adds to the long list of restrictive abortion policies that legislators have already enacted in this state. For example, Utah already forces people seeking abortion to complete a state-mandated online education module and a face-to-face informed consent session designed to discourage people from seeking abortion services, and then wait 72 hours before receiving abortion care," according to the statement.
"These medically unnecessary restrictions can cause delays that force abortion later into pregnancy and disproportionately impact women who live in rural areas of our state and families who are economically disadvantaged."
Including the abortion law, Herbert signed 119 bills into law on Monday and vetoed one.
Herbert nixed SB123, which would have amended the state's election code and allowed a political party to replace a candidate for Congressional office if "the candidate resigns to accept an appointment to a federal office."
"Compared to how candidates are selected in our regular Congressional elections, this bill significantly limits participation and choice in elections to fill vacancies in the United States House of Representatives and therefore limits the ability of Utah voters to choose their Congressional representatives," Herbert said in a statement Monday.
Among other laws signed into law, HB324 will increase the legal age to buy tobacco in the state incrementally, with the age increasing to 20 in July of 2020 and to 21 the next year.
Three bills signed Monday will alter the state's initiative processes.
HB133 will modify the effective date of laws enacted by statewide initiative to match that of bills passed by the Legislature. HB119 sets new requirements for local voter referendums and initiatives. HB195 changes signature thresholds for statewide initiatives and referenda. It also bases thresholds on a percentage of active voters rather than the number of voters in a previous presidential election.