Judges in Louisiana and Utah on Monday temporarily blocked prohibitions on abortion in their states following last week's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ends a national right to the procedure.
The high court on Friday overturned Roe v. Wade, which for nearly 50 years had granted women the constitutional right to abortions. More than a dozen states set so-called trigger laws to take immediate effect banning or severely limiting abortions in the event Roe v. Wade was overturned.
Trigger laws were also being challenged in Arizona, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi and Texas.
A state judge in Louisiana issued a temporary restraining order Monday barring the state from enforcing its ban, leading to the immediate resumption of the procedure.
Orleans Parish Civil District Judge Robin Giarrusso granted the request of plaintiffs Hope Medical Group for Women and Medical Students for Choice.
Hours later, Utah Third District Judge Andrew Stone halted that state's trigger law effective immediately under a 14-day temporary restraining order requested by the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah.
"There is irreparable harm that has been shown," Stone said in granting the order. "Affected women are deprived of safe, local medical treatments to terminate pregnancies."
Planned Parenthood lawyer Julie Murray argued that because patients had access to abortion for five decades, halting the procedure with such short notice had reverberating impacts for Utah women.
The nonprofit organization's facilities in Utah had more than 55 patients scheduled for abortion appointments this week, it said in its emergency request Saturday for a temporary restraining order.
Utah Solicitor General Tyler Green argued that nothing in the state's constitution specifically protects a right to abortion and that the interest of the unborn weighs as heavily as the harm to would-be patients under prohibition.
"In our view, it's at least a draw," he told the court.
Murray said Planned Parenthood's lawyers were working on a request for a preliminary injunction that, if successful, would keep abortion legally available in the state after the temporary restraining order expires.
Providers in Louisiana stopped performing abortions Friday, unsure of the legality of the practice because of the vagueness of the bill, reproductive rights groups said.
“Louisiana’s court made the right call today to swiftly block this unjust ban from taking effect," said a statement by Jenny Ma, a senior staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs.
"It is incredibly welcome news during a very dark time in our history. This means that Louisiana patients will still be able to access the essential health care they need — every second that abortion is accessible counts. While the fight is far from over, we will do everything in our power to preserve abortion access in Louisiana and across the country.”
Attorney General Jeff Landry said Monday that his office will go to court to support the abortion ban, which he said was "enacted by the people" of Louisiana.
"We are fully prepared to defend these laws in our state courts, just as we have in our federal courts," Landry said in a statement.
In a statement Friday, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards declared that he is "unabashedly pro-life and opposed to abortion" but said he is seeking changes to Louisiana's trigger law — first put in place in 2006 — because it has no exceptions for rape and incest.
"As I have said many times before, I believe women who are survivors of rape or incest should be able to determine whether to continue with a pregnancy that is the result of a criminal act," Edwards said Friday.
Christina Stephens, the governor's deputy chief of staff, said in a statement Monday: "This challenge to Louisiana’s trigger law was completely expected. For quite some time, our law has clearly stated that abortion would be outlawed in Louisiana if Roe v. Wade was overturned."