The Utah Attorney General’s Office is asking the Utah Supreme Court for permission to appeal a 3rd District Court judge’s decision that has halted enforcement of Utah’s abortion trigger law pending resolution of a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood Association of Utah.

The petition says “the district court abused its discretion in preliminarily enjoining SB174” and the ruling “should be reversed on interlocutory appeal on this ground alone.”

According to a press release from the office of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, the state must seek permission to challenge the injunction on appeal because the preliminary injunction granted by 3rd District Court Judge Andrew Stone does not resolve the case.

“Today’s petition is a step in the process to challenge the preliminary injunction and will not resolve the merits of the trigger law case,” the press release states.

An interlocutory appeal is an appeal of a ruling by a trial court that is made before the trial itself has concluded.

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Attorneys representing the state told Stone they would file an interlocutory appeal when he issued the injunction sought by Planned Parenthood Association of Utah and the ACLU of Utah. 

Utah’s trigger law, SB174, was passed by the Utah Legislature in 2020 in anticipation of a future Supreme Court ruling that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that recognized women’s constitutional right to abortion.

The state law allows abortions only if the mother’s life is at risk, if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest, or if two physicians who practice “maternal fetal medicine” both determine that the fetus “has a defect that is uniformly diagnosable and uniformly lethal or ... has a severe brain abnormality that is uniformly diagnosable.”

The law has not taken effect due to Stone’s injunction.

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Karrie Galloway, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, said in a statement that the state’s appeal was expected and is a normal part of the legal process.

“We feel confident the injunction will stand so that Utahns can continue to get the health care they need while we fight this ban in court,” said Galloway.

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The attorney general’s petition pushes back on the lawsuit’s claim that SB174 violates a state constitutional right to abortion.

“But, like the U.S. Constitution, the state constitution says nothing about abortion. In fact, ‘such a right was entirely unknown in American law’ until the latter part of the 1900s. ... Nor is the alleged right otherwise ‘deeply rooted in this nation’s history and tradition,’” the petition states.

The petition says the Utah Supreme Court should retain and decide this petition rather than transferring it to the Utah Court of Appeals.

“The petition raises important questions about standing, preliminary injunction factors and constitutional interpretation that will affect the parties’ dispute and future cases. More importantly, SB174 involves compelling state interests: the protection and preservation of human life, existing and unborn. The state and the public need a definitive answer now, that only this court can provide, about whether SB174 is enforceable pending resolution of PPAU’s claims,” the 20-page petition states.

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