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Salt Lake district attorney says he won't enforce Utah's abortion ban

The Hill logo The Hill 5/15/2019 Tal Axelrod
a large white building: Salt Lake district attorney says he won't enforce Utah's abortion ban © The Hill Salt Lake district attorney says he won't enforce Utah's abortion ban

Salt Lake County Attorney Sim Gill (D) declared that he would not enforce a Utah measure banning abortions after 18 weeks.

Gill, who oversees the county containing the Beehive State's only two abortion clinics, said the prohibition was unconstitutional as a slew of states pass restrictions on the procedure.

The law, which was signed by Gov. Gary Herbert (R) in March, is currently being challenged in court.

"In our participatory democracy the Legislature is certainly free to pass legislation indicating what the law should be, the duty of a public prosecutor is to enforce the law as it currently stands," Gill said in a statement Monday. "Residents of Salt Lake County deserve, and rightfully expect, that their fundamental rights will not be compromised by governmental bodies, whether by threat of criminal sanction or otherwise.

"Unless and until the United States Supreme Court weighs in with a contrary view of the scope of constitutional protection afforded to women, the DA's Office will not enforce a law that is unconstitutional under existing precedent."

A slate of states across the country have adopted restrictive abortion measures, with the Alabama Senate voting Tuesday to effectively ban the procedure entirely unless the mother's life is at stake.

Sixteen states have passed or are currently considering abortion bans once a fetal heartbeat is detected about six weeks into pregnancy. Four states have approved so-called heartbeat abortion laws.

Proponents of the measures have said they hope to trigger a legal battle that could eventually lead the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion.

For now, experts said some prosecutors may push against the states' actions on abortion by refusing to enforce them.

"You'll see more statements of this kind. But how they'll be enforced is much more complicated than what first may seem to be the case," Florida State University College of Law Professor Mary Ziegler told the Associated Press.

However, Gill said he would have to enforce Utah's 18-week ban it if is upheld by the Supreme Court.

"My job is to keep my personal beliefs out of it, but I absolutely believe that our citizens have constitutional rights and our institutions have an obligation to serve those citizens and not simply roll over and play dead," he said Tuesday, according to the AP.

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