Utah approach to upending abortion law not the same as Alabama

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Utah has jabbed around the edges of the nation’s long-standing abortion law, but hasn’t gone as far as Alabama to ban the procedure in almost all circumstances.

The Beehive State’s Republican-controlled Legislature passed a bill in 2016 that requires doctors to administer anesthesia or painkillers for a fetus before any abortion at 20 weeks gestation or later — the first law of its kind in the country.

Earlier this year, lawmakers outlawed abortions performed solely based on a Down syndrome diagnosis.

While both measures are controversial, the Legislature also waded into the national debate on abortion rights this year with a law banning the procedure after 18 weeks gestation. Planned Parenthood of Utah immediately sued and a federal judge stopped the law from taking effect while the case is litigated.

“Utah has taken a little more reserved approach. We’ve been pushing the envelope on abortions to limit them … pushing the envelope in what we believe are the current judicial constraints,” Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, said, listing some of those laws.

“If the question is would Utah join Alabama, in principle I suspect there’s a lot of support for that,” he said. “Are we willing to pass a law? I would be.”

The Alabama Legislature passed a bill that would ban almost all abortions in the state, setting the stage for a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that recognized a woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

The bill, which the governor signed Wednesday, makes an exception for cases when the mother’s life is at risk, but not for rape or incest. While women who have abortions would not be prosecuted, doctors who perform the procedure could be charged with a crime and face up to 99 years in prison.

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