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Ralph Chamness
Chief
Civil Division

Lisa Ashman
Administrative
Operations


Jeffrey William Hall
Chief Deputy
Justice Division

Blake Nakamura
Chief Deputy
Justice Division

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 18, 2019
Contact Sim Gill

April 18, 2019—Today, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill issued the following statement addressing his involvement in the pending lawsuit challenging HB136, “Abortion Amendments,” which would ban most abortions performed in Utah at or after 18 weeks.  The case is Planned Parenthood of Utah Association v. Joseph Miner, et al., No. 2:19-cv-238 (D. Utah).  

Planned Parenthood named me in its lawsuit challenging HB136 because I am the elected District Attorney for Salt Lake County. The only clinic in the state that would be affected by HB136 is located here, which means I am the only elected county prosecutor who could, in theory, bring criminal charges for violation of the new law.   

We take seriously our obligation as prosecutors to enforce state criminal law consistent with the United States and Utah Constitutions, binding legal authority from the United States and Utah State Supreme Courts and the lower federal courts, and our legal and ethical obligations to due process and personal liberty.   

The federal appellate court in our district struck down a similar but less restrictive abortion ban passed by our Legislature over two decades ago, concluding that a 22-week ban erected an unconstitutional barrier to the substantive due process rights of women faced with the difficult decision whether to terminate a pregnancy. There is no indication the more restrictive 18-week ban in HB136 is likely to fare any better.

 Accordingly, enforcement by my office of the criminal penalties included in HB136 would, in my view, run afoul of clearly established federal law.  My office will not commence any prosecution in connection with HB136’s 18-week abortion ban unless and until the Supreme Court of the United States or the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reverses course and says it would be constitutional to do so. 

While we disagree with Planned Parenthood’s tactics in joining us in its case against the State of Utah, we share Planned Parenthood’s interest in a swift decision addressing the constitutionality, or not, of HB136. 

Any public policy that would require a prosecutor to intervene with a patient and their doctor should require strict adherence to the constitution to ensure no state action violates the individual liberty of our citizens. Our office will not violate anyone’s constitutional rights without absolute clarity. Citizens should expect nothing less from their government. 

 

Attachment:
Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Answer to complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief

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35 East 500 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
Telephone 385.468.7600 - Fax 385.468.7736 - slco.org/district-attorney