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Planned Parenthood seeks to move ahead with challenge of Utah’s 18-week abortion ban

Group says Supreme Court ruling in Louisiana case confirms legal standing

SHARE Planned Parenthood seeks to move ahead with challenge of Utah’s 18-week abortion ban
The new Salt Lake City Federal Courthouse, Wednesday, April 9, 2014.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Planned Parenthood of Utah wants to move ahead with its federal lawsuit over a new state law that bans abortions beginning at 18 weeks of pregnancy now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in a Louisiana case.

The organization argued in a court filing Monday that the June Medical Services v. Gee case confirms it has third-party standing on behalf of its patients to challenge Utah’s 18-week abortion ban.

Planned Parenthood cites opinions of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Stephen Breyer in the Louisiana case to claim standing in the Utah case.

Breyer concluded both that the state had waived its third-party standing challenge and that the plaintiffs had third-party standing “under a long line of well-established precedents.” Roberts agreed that abortion providers have standing to assert the constitutional rights of their patients 

“As this court recognized in its stay order, if June Medical Services does not change existing law, then ‘plaintiff has prudential standing’ and the case should proceed,” according to lawyers for Planned Parenthood.

U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups put the lawsuit on hold last December pending a decision in the Louisiana case.

Waddoups wrote then 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 was 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 Supreme Court struck down the law late last month.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office sought the stay, arguing the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the Louisiana case called 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.

According to its Monday filing, Planned Parenthood lawyers have talked to state attorneys and they agree the case should resume with discovery and other motions.

Waddoups 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 last 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.