SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah judge ruled on Tuesday that a recently passed state law banning abortion clinics cannot take effect on Wednesday as scheduled while the court deliberates over a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood.

Judge Andrew Stone’s decision to grant Planned Parenthood’s request will allow the four clinics that provide abortions in Utah to remain licensed to operate fully. The law would have stopped abortion clinics from getting licenses beginning on Wednesday and fazed out existing ones by next year.

In his ruling, Stone called the Utah Legislature’s objective in enacting the ban “nebulous” and agreed to delay implementing the law because Planned Parenthood had presented enough preliminary evidence to suggest it “singles out” abortion clinics without reason.

“There is nothing before the court to indicate that an injunction would be adverse to the public interest,” Stone ruled.

Planned Parenthood argued the law would have effectively ended access to abortion throughout Utah, where clinics provide 95% of abortions.

The office of Utah’s Attorney General declined to comment.


The lawsuit is the latest development to shape abortion access in Utah since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year. The state is one of 19 to have tightened restrictions, with many relying on “trigger laws” passed in the years leading up to the decision. Such laws laid out restrictions that would be triggered by any Supreme Court ruling that reversed Roe.

In Utah, overturning Roe triggered two pieces of legislation: an 18-week ban passed in 2019 and a 2020 ban on abortions regardless of trimester, with several exceptions to protect maternal health or in cases of rape or incest reported to the police.

Planned Parenthood sued over the 2020 ban, and last July, Stone delayed implementing it until legal challenges could be resolved.

Abortion remains legal up to 18 weeks in the state as the court weighs that challenge.

When Utah passed its clinic ban in March, it became the first state to adopt such a law in the post-Roe era.

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