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Leavitt v. Jane L. (1996)

In Brief

Leavitt v. Jane L. (1996): Court allows restrictions on abortions past 20 weeks to stand despite invalidity of restrictions on earlier abortions

The Utah legislature passed a law allowing abortions after 20 weeks gestation only in cases where needed to save the mother's life, to prevent grave damage to her medical health, or where the child has grave defects. Another provision in the law limited abortions before 20 weeks to these cases as well as where the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.

A pregnant woman and a group of abortion doctors filed suit claiming the law was unconstitutional. The district court struck down the portion of the law relating to abortions prior to 20 weeks gestation and the court of appeals ruled that the entire law must be stricken because the post-20 week provision could not stand on its own.

The Supreme Court disagreed, citing a section of the Utah abortion law which specified that each provision was to be regarded as having been enacted independently, and noting that the two provisions were not so interrelated that the statute could not function effectively without the invalidated provision.

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