Abortion clinics in Utah could be banned from operating under a new law signed by the state's Republican governor, due to concerns about medical safety standards for women.
Hospitals will still be able to perform abortions when the mother's life is at risk, or in cases of rape or incest.
The law signed by Gov. Spencer Cox on Wednesday takes effect May 3, at which time abortion clinics will not be able to apply to be licensed. It institutes a full ban on Jan. 1, 2024.
In addition to preventing abortion clinics from operating in their current condition, the law also clarifies the definition of abortion to address liability concerns about how exceptions are worded in state law — a provision Cox called a compromise.
On Thursday, the governor rebuffed critics who've equated restricting clinics to a de facto ban on abortion and said the law offered exceptions for hospitals providing emergency abortions in the case of threats to maternal health and rape or incest reported to authorities.
"This bill clarifies that so that those abortions can continue. They will continue in a hospital setting, but there's nothing to prevent those from continuing," he said at a news conference.
Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America's Western Regional Director Adam Schwend said it's about ensuring proper safety standards for women.
"Abortion clinics are not medical facilities. Planned Parenthood and the rest of the abortion industry exist to generate a profit by taking lives of unborn children, rather than to care for patients," he said.
"They generally do not have to abide by the same regulatory standards as health clinics, and this puts women at risk. We thank Gov. Cox, Rep. Lisonbee, and Sen. McCay for establishing these new safeguards for the unborn and women's health, and continuing to advance a culture of life in Utah," Schwend continued.
Though Planned Parenthood previously warned the law could dramatically hamper its ability to provide abortions, Jason Stevenson, the association's lobbyist, said it would examine the wording of other provisions of the law that could allow clinics to apply for new licenses to perform hospital-equivalent services.
Utah's 2020 trigger law that protects life at conception has been put on hold by the courts since July of 2022 and will be considered by the state's Supreme Court. A 2019 law that limits abortion beyond 18 weeks is still in place.
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