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Utah Abortion Laws

Note: While Utah passed a new law on March 25, 2019 prohibiting abortions past the 18-week mark (with an unspecified enactment date), it was blocked by a preliminary injunction in federal court. The courts can delay implementation of the law during the period of judicial review and can ultimately overturn the law if it's found to be unconstitutional.

Abortion is one of the most controversial topics and, sadly, is often used as a pawn in political games. No matter what your personal feelings on the subject are, it’s good to know what the law is in your state. Abortion regulations in Utah are relatively restrictive compared to those of most other states. As the only abortion clinics in the state are in Salt Lake County, it may be easier for residents in the southern part of Utah to drive to Las Vegas, Nevada for abortion services.

On March 25, 2019, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill into law that restricts abortions performed after 18 weeks. The new law leaves existing exceptions in place, such as instances of rape, incest, fatal fetal defects, or to protect the mother from death or permanent impairment. Following it's passage, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction to place the law on hold pending judicial review (both parties agreed to the injunction).

Utah Abortion Laws at a Glance

State laws affecting access to abortion services are complex and vary quite a bit among states. It can be quite confusing to determine your rights under the law, especially with all of the legal jargon. The following table outlines the main parts of Utah abortion laws, written in plain language.

Code Sections
Statutory Definition of Illegal Abortion Utah law describes an illegal abortion as follows:
  1. Failing to meet the standards for a legal abortion;
  2. Coercing someone to have abortion;
  3. Intentionally terminating a human pregnancy (including all procedures undertaken to kill a live, unborn child or produce a miscarriage);
  4. Partial birth abortions after viability;
  5. Dilation and extraction abortions; or
  6. Saline abortions.

However, if all other available abortion procedures would pose a risk to the life or health of the pregnant woman or time doesn’t permit other options due to a serious medical emergency, then partial birth, saline, or dilation and extraction procedures can be performed.

Under H.B. 136:

In addition to the existing provisions, the 2019 law would prohibit all abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy (except for cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal defects, fetal brain damage, or to protect the mother's life or health).

Statutory Definition of Legal Abortion

An abortion is legal in Utah if:

  • It’s done before viability or if the fetus is unable to live outside the womb;
  • It’s necessary to save the woman’s life or health;
  • The woman is a victim of rape or incest that resulted in the fetus; or
  • The fetus has a uniformly diagnosable and lethal defect.
Informed Consent Requirements The patient herself must be given informed consent for the procedure. The doctor must provide the woman with abortion information, including required printed materials and video about abortion, at least 24 hours before procedure except in a medical emergency.
Waiting Period In Utah, individuals seeking abortions must wait 72 hours after being given informed consent of the abortion procedure to actually have the procedure done.
Parental Notification Minors under 18 years old are required to provide notice of getting an abortion to their parents or guardians , if the minor is unmarried. However, if that isn’t possible or safe for them, the court can order an abortion without parental consent.
Spousal Notification The U.S. Supreme Court determined spousal notification laws are unconstitutional in 1992.
Residency Requirements for Patients There isn’t a residency requirement in Utah or elsewhere as Doe v. Bolton in 1973 (the companion case to Roe v. Wade) decided that unconstitutionally denied out-of-state residents medical care in the state.
Penalty for Unlawful Abortion

If a doctor or clinic violates these abortion laws, it’s typically a Class A misdemeanor that can be punished by not more than a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

However, performing a partial birth or saline abortion, except in a medical emergency, is a third degree felony . A third degree felony can be penalized by up to five years in prison and at most a $5,000 fine. Finally, killing an unborn fetus during an illegal abortion is a second degree felony that’s penalized by 1 to 15 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

If a doctor doesn’t provide the mandatory informed consent then it is "unprofessional conduct," which means their medical license could be revoked or suspended.

Physician Licensing Requirements
A licensed physician, either a medical doctor or osteopath doctor, must provide abortion services and the attending physician must concur with the procedure.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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Utah Abortion Laws: Related Resources

Need Help Understanding Utah's Abortion Laws? An Attorney Can Help

If you're facing an unwanted pregnancy, you likely have a lot to figure out besides the mechanics of the law. A licensed attorney can help you navigate the law and provide you with the information you need to make the right decision for you and your family. Get started today by contacting a Utah health care attorney near you.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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