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Gov. Cox ‘feels pretty good’ about the bill to close Utah’s abortion clinics

Gov. Spencer Cox holds a monthly news conference in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023.
Chris Samuels
The Salt Lake Tribune, pool
Gov. Spencer Cox holds a monthly news conference in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox wasn’t short on opinions for his monthly news conference.

His face time with reporters came on the heels of his big economic announcement — that Texas Instruments will make a historic investment in Utah — and quick work by House Republicans to introduce a bill to close down abortion clinics.

Cox said he “feels pretty good” about Republican Rep. Karianne Lisonbee’s bill, which would remove all abortion clinics in the state by January 2024 and make state hospitals the sole abortion providers, with a few exceptions. It also prohibits a rape or incest victim from receiving an abortion after the fetus has reached 18 weeks.

The governor agrees with the 18-week cut-off because it “gives plenty of time for a decision to be made” and also feels the time limit is broadly popular across the nation.

“This is part of the problem in the abortion discussion,” the governor opined. “We've gotten to a place where it seems like the choices are no abortions ever or no restrictions ever. If you look, the American people are much more nuanced on this.”

The next president

Cox said he “does not know” if he would support former President Donald Trump in the 2024 election.

He expressed a keen preference for Republicans to take control of the Senate, widening their margin in the House and ultimately securing the White House. He doesn’t think Trump “gives us the best chance of that.”

“I believe that we lost the House, the Senate [and] the presidency with President Trump,” he said referring to the 2020 presidential election.

Instead, Cox would like to see a GOP governor become president. A few current and former governors have either announced their bids or expressed interest in the race. Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor and Trump’s United Nations ambassador, launched her presidential campaign earlier this week. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is rumored to be a potential presidential candidate. Trump has already announced his race for the White House.

“I like winners,” Cox said. “And I think there are several governors who are winners right now.”

Air quality

The governor motioned support fora bill that would reduce require industries to reduce bromine emissions by 50% by 2023.

A recent study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that Salt Lake City-based US Magnesium is responsible for 10-25% of chlorine and bromine emitted during the winter. The pollutants result in a “brown cloud” that cloaks most of the Wasatch Front.

“We're very interested in anything we can do to clear up the air,” he said.

While Cox anticipates signing the bill if it passes, he wants to make sure “it actually does what it's supposed to do.”

Although, he didn’t mince words regarding the failure of a non-binding resolution that would set a water level goal for the declining Great Salt Lake.

“That law was meaningless. It does nothing. It would help nothing. It would change nothing,” Cox said.

He added the administration is “happy to put a range in” for where the lake’s water levels should be instead.

Magic mushrooms

Cox wasn’t a fan of a bill, SB200, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Luz Escamilla that would establish a pilot program for a few thousand Utahns to use medical psilocybin, or “magic mushrooms,” for mental health therapy.

“I just don’t believe the science is there,” he said. “I don’t believe we should be experimenting on 5,000 people here in our state. And I think there are some serious consequences and side effects societally as well as medically that I’m just not comfortable with.”

Cox would prefer the state wait until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the practice.

Saige is a politics reporter and co-host of KUER's State Street politics podcast
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