SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge put the legal challenge to a new Utah law that bans abortions beginning at 18 weeks of pregnancy on hold Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups issued a stay in Planned Parenthood of Utah’s lawsuit against the the state pending a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in a Louisiana case. A ruling in that case is expected by the end of next June.
Waddoups wrote that “balancing the potential harms to the respective parties, and considering the potential that this court may lack court authority to proceed with this matter, the court concludes the interests of justice are best served by staying the case.”
At issue in the Louisiana case, June Medical Services v. Gee, is a law requiring doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital no more than 30 miles away, which could shut down abortion clinics in the state.
The Utah Attorney General’s Office sought the stay, arguing the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the Louisiana case calls into question the standing of abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood in the Utah case, to challenge abortion regulations on behalf of patients.
“Without standing, this court lacks jurisdiction to decide this case because there would be no ‘case’ or ‘controversy,’” according to state attorneys.
Planned Parenthood opposed putting the case on hold.
“This court should deny the motion to stay because June Medical’s review of third-party standing issues will not affect this case, regardless of its outcome, and because a stay would be unnecessary and inefficient, even if June Medical had some application here,” according to Planned Parenthood lawyers.
The judge previously issued an injunction stopping the Utah law from taking effect during the litigation.
The bill originally set the limit for legal abortions at 15-weeks gestation, but it was revised to 18 weeks before the Republican-controlled Legislature passed it largely along party lines earlier this year.
While the law shortens the legal abortion window, it maintains a woman’s right to have an elective abortion, allowing exceptions for rape, incest, life or permanent impairment of the mother, and fatal fetal defects or severe brain abnormality.