The American Civil Liberties Union filed a long-promised suit in federal court Friday, challenging the constitutionality of Utah's new abortion law.
The complaint, Jane Liberty vs. Norman Bangerter, is more than 300 pages long and contains affidavits from physicians, geneticists, counselors and religious leaders seeking to stop the enforcement of Utah's abortion statute.The suit also seeks an expedited hearing and asks for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the new law.
The state has seven days to respond to the request for an expedited hearing and restraining order.
"We have said from the very beginning we would not attempt to enforce this law until it had received Supreme Court approval," said Bud Scruggs, chief of staff for Gov. Norm Bangerter. "We anticipated a challenge. And a challenge like this is necessary to provide the necessary judicial review.
Scruggs, an attorney himself, said it's now time to let this issue be debated in the courts "where advocates have a responsibility to tell the truth and not in the advertising section of newspapers where the ACLU has not been similarly restrained."
Scruggs was referring a $57,000 ad in the Sunday New York Times placed by the ACLU: "In Utah, they know how to punish a woman who has an abortion. Shoot her." The ad was printed in about 1.8 million copies of the paper distributed na-tion-wide.
Attorneys from the national ACLU office flew in from New York on Thursday to help local attorneys prepare the suit.
The suit says the new Utah law infringes on people's fundamental rights to freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, right to privacy and right to medical liberty guaranteed by the U.S. and Utah constitutions.
Utah's law unconstitutionally interferes with and restricts medical and reproductive decisions, the suit says.
The suit says the language of Utah's law is overly broad and vague and denies Utahns their constitutional rights to know what specific actions could subject them to the criminal penal-ties of the law.
According to the suit, Jane Liberty, an alias, is a northern Utah woman in her early 30s. She is a divorced mother raising and supporting two small children.
"I got a divorce because my spouse was abusive. The abuse began during my first pregnancy. I am trying to complete my education in order to provide a better life for myself and my children. My doctor has confirmed that I am less than two weeks pregnant."
The suit said Liberty was very sick during her first two pregnancies and has been told by her doctor that she runs a 50 percent risk of suffering from toxemia if she carries the pregnancy to term.
"Perhaps at some point if I remarry and have help and support in carrying for my two existing children, I could risk being that sick again. Now I cannot," she said in an affidavit filed with the ACLU suit.
The suit says that if an injunction stopping the enactment of Utah's law is not granted, Liberty and others may be forced to carry unwanted and dangerous pregnancies to term, travel long distances for out-of-state care or resort to "unsafe, self-induced or back-alley abortions that could result in death."
The suit said that for the many women and the class represented by Jane Liberty, the request for an injunction against Utah "may literally be a matter of life and death."
The suit is filed on behalf of the Utah Women's Clinic, Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, Drs. David Hansen, Madhuri Shah, John Carey, Dan Chichester, Kirtly Parker Jones, Kathleen Kennedy, Neil K. Kochenour, Rhonda Lehr, Claire Leonard and Kenneth Ward as well as social worker Bonnie Baty, Susan Elizabeth Lyons, Janet Lynn Wolf and Leslie McDonald-White.
Also named as plaintiffs in the suit are Revs. David Butler, Barbara Hamilton-Holway, George H. Lower, Lyle D. Sellards, Alan Condie Tul and Marie Soward Green. Rabbi Fredrick L. Winger and all women in situations similar to Jane Liberty's are listed as class-action plaintiffs.