Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed a pro-life bill into law Wednesday that protects unborn babies by ending abortion facility licenses throughout the state.

Aborting unborn babies is still legal in Utah due to a court order blocking its abortion ban, but the new law effectively could ban elective abortions while that lawsuit continues.

This week, Cox, a pro-life Republican, signed the pro-life law, along with dozens of others, after the state legislature passed it by an overwhelming majority earlier this month.

Sponsored by state Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, House Bill 467 prohibits abortion facilities from operating in Utah starting in 2024 and prohibits state authorities from granting licenses to abortion facilities after May 2. However, it also requires abortions that are allowed under the law to be performed in hospitals, basically making current abortion facilities’ licenses meaningless.

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Lisonbee recently said her legislation “strikes the very best balance of protecting innocent life and protecting women who experience rare and dangerous circumstances.”

Currently, Utah has four abortion facilities, including the Wasatch Women’s Center in Salt Lake City and three Planned Parenthoods. It is not clear if any of them plan to file lawsuits attempting to block the law.

The Utah Hospital Association told the Associated Press that Utah hospitals do not perform elective abortions, and would not say if any plan to start doing so as a result of the new law.

Here’s more from the AP:

Jason Stevenson, lobbyist [at the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah], said Wednesday the organization would now further examine the wording, implications and whether other provisions of the bill allowed clinics to apply for a new kind of license to perform hospital-equivalent services.

Based on Planned Parenthood’s interpretation, he said in an interview, clinics will no longer be able to provide abortions with their current licenses. They plan to continue, however, to provide the majority of their services such as STI testing, pregnancy testing, cancer screenings and vasectomies.

Along with banning abortion facilities, the bill also requires doctors to provide information about perinatal hospice and palliative care to pregnant mothers whose unborn babies are diagnosed with a fatal condition. It also prohibits abortions after 18 weeks in cases of rape and incest, and allows doctors who abort unborn babies in violation of state laws to face discipline for unprofessional conduct.

Utah has a trigger law that bans killing unborn babies in abortions except in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal anomalies or emergency situations when the mother’s life is at risk. However, a court recently blocked it at the request of Planned Parenthood; Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is appealing.

If Reyes succeeds, Utah would join 14 other states that protect unborn babies by banning or strictly limiting abortions. Pro-life leaders estimate these laws already have saved thousands of unborn babies’ lives.

Currently, unborn babies still are being aborted up to 18 weeks in Utah. According to state health department statistics, 2,818 unborn babies were aborted in 2022.

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