(KCPW News) A Christian legal defense fund has offered to fight any constitutional challenges to three new abortion bills for free. Steven Aden with the Washington D.C.-based Alliance Defense Fund said his organization defends "reasonable" restrictions on abortion throughout the country, and offered to represent the state to help offset the cost of litigation.
"We understand that there may be a concern on the part of some that there may be a cost involved," Aden said. "We do not believe that cost should be an issue in defending life. And that's why we would be pleased to defend the regulations in court."
However, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is bound by the Utah constitution to defend the state in court himself. Though he has declined the group's offer, Aden said his organization will still try to help in any way Shurtleff deems appropriate.
This year, the Utah Legislature approved a new abortion defense fund, a requirement that physicians offer pain relief for fetuses during abortions, and an increased penalty for illegal, late-term abortions. While Shurtleff believes a legal challenge is likely, there are no pending lawsuits. Melissa Bird with the Planned Parenthood Action Council said two of the bills probably won't ever be challenged because they are constitutional. However, Planned Parenthood is concerned with the third bill, which increases the penalty for illegal, late-term abortions, because of how it defines a viable fetus.
"House Bill 90 is the one we've always had question with because of the way they've defined viability," Bird said. "But at this point, there's no one that's come to the forefront to even challenge the law. And so, at this point, there would be no way that we would be pursuing anything at this time. And you never know what's going to happen in the future."
The three abortion bills were sponsored by a group of conservative lawmakers who hope to eventually ban abortion in Utah. Salt Lake County Rep. Carl Wimmer plans to introduce such a ban next legislative session. He decided against it this year because of the cost of defending it. An unsuccessful attempt to ban abortions by the 1991 Utah Legislature eventually cost the state $1 million.