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Herbert Signals Support For Down Syndrome Abortion Bill Now Heading To His Desk


Utah could soon put new restrictions on abortion after the state Senate on Thursday sent the first of two bills to the governor’s desk for his signature.


H.B 166 passed with a party-line vote of 20-6. It would ban abortions if the sole reason is a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

The bill has now cleared both chambers and goes to Gov. Gary Herbert, who signaled that he may support the bill.


The law would only take effect if a court with jurisdiction over Utah rules in favor of a similar law.


With that provision, “we won’t implement this law unless other states have tested it and it’s been found to be constitutional,” Herbert said Thursday morning at his monthly KUED news conference. “That’ll take some of the risk and the expense out of fighting that on a constitutional basis.”


Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, first introduced the bill in 2018. It passed the House but did not come up for a vote in the Senate before the session ended.


Lawmakers are also considering a second bill this year that would restrict abortions after 18 weeks. That proposal, sponsored by Rep. Cheryl Acton, R-West Jordan, has passed the House and is currently awaiting assignment to a Senate committee.


Herbert said it would not matter if lawmakers passed any number of abortion bills — he will consider them the same as he does all other legislation.


“We’ll take a look at it, take a methodical look, weigh the pros and the cons and then decide whether to sign,” he said.


Herbert said he is a “pro-life guy” and believes with medical advancements since Roe v. Wade — the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that upheld access to abortion— that reproductive laws centered around fetal viability outside the womb should be revisited.


“When you have a heartbeat after six weeks, it does give me, at least, pause” over abortion, he said.

Democrats largely oppose both abortion bills, citing concerns about constitutionality and patient privacy.

The Planned Parenthood Association of Utah has pledged to challenge the 18-week ban if it is passed and signed into law.

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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