Judges in Utah and Louisiana temporarily block laws banning abortion from going into effect

New Orleans. The collapse of the Roe vs. Wade on Monday moved the battlefield over abortion to courts across the country, as one side sought to quickly enforce the state bans and the other was trying to stop or at least delay such measures.

The decision of the Supreme Court of USA to end the constitutional protection of abortion opened the door to a wave of litigation from all sides.

Requests for temporary suspensions were successful in Louisiana y Utah, as state judges issued orders Monday blocking abortion bans in those states from going into effect. Meanwhile, a federal judge in South Carolina has said a law restricting abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy can go into effect immediately there.

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Much of the court activity on Monday focused on “automatic trigger laws,” adopted in 13 states and designed to take effect quickly following the ruling of the Supreme Court from last week. Lawsuits could also be brought against old anti-abortion laws that were left on the books and not enforced during Roe v. Wade. In the same way, new restrictions on abortion will come into play that were put on hold pending the ruling of the Supreme Court.

Failures quickly followed in Utah and Louisiana. On Monday, a Utah judge temporarily blocked that state’s near-total abortion ban, after Planned Parenthood there challenged an automatic trigger law that contains few exceptions.

In Louisiana, a judge from New Orleans, a liberal city in a conservative state, temporarily blocked enforcement of the abortion ban after abortion rights activists argued the law is unclear. The judge’s ruling is in effect pending a hearing scheduled for July 8.

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At least one of the state’s three abortion clinics said it would resume procedures Tuesday.

“We’re going to do what we can,” he said. Kathaleen Pittman, administrator of Hope Medical Group for Women, in Shreveport. “Everything could come to a standstill.”

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a staunch opponent of abortion, vowed to fight the judge’s ruling and enforce the law.

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“We remind everyone that the laws that are now in effect were enacted by the people through the State Constitutional Amendments and the Louisiana Legislature,” Landry tweeted Monday.

Also Monday, abortion rights advocates asked a Florida judge to block a new law that bans the procedure after 15 weeks’ gestation, with some exceptions, and is set to go into effect this week. A ruling on the matter is expected on Thursday.

Abortion-rights activists also went to court Monday to try to get around restrictions in Texas, Idaho, Kentucky and Mississippi, the latter the state the Supreme Court ruling focused on, while the American Union of Arizona Civil Liberties filed an emergency motion Saturday to block a 2021 law they fear could be used to stop all abortions.

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In its ruling on Friday, the Supreme Court left it up to the states to decide whether or not to allow abortions.

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“The expectation is that this will lead to years of legislative and judicial challenges,” said Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University School of Law.

As of Saturday, abortion services had been halted in at least 11 states, either because of state laws or confusion over them.

In some cases, lawsuits only serve to buy time. Even if the courts prevent some restrictions from being imposed, lawmakers in many conservative states could move quickly to remedy the flaws noted.

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That is likely to be the case in Louisiana. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in state court do not deny that the state can now ban abortion. But they contend that Louisiana now has multiple and conflicting trigger mechanisms in law.

They also argue that state law is unclear as to whether it prohibits abortion before the fertilized egg implants in the uterus. And while the law provides an exception for “medically useless” pregnancies in cases involving fetuses with lethal abnormalities, the plaintiffs point out that the law provides no definition of the term.

Across the country, other automatic activation laws could be challenged on the grounds that the conditions for imposing the bans had not been met, or that it was improper for a past legislature to enforce the current one.

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Laura Herner, a professor at Mitchell Hamline Law School in St. Paul, Minnesota, said further challenges could question whether state law allows clear and sufficient exceptions to protect the life or health of a pregnant woman.

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Now that the highest court has ruled that the US Constitution does not guarantee abortion rights, abortion rights supporters will argue that their state constitutions protect that right.

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