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Utah Senate Passes Bill To Ban Elective Abortions If Roe v. Wade Is Overturned

Photo of a room with rows of wooden desks, with a woman and a man standing up speaking into microphones.
Sonja Hutson/KUER
Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, speaks in opposition to a bill that would ban elective abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

A bill banning elective abortions, should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, passed the Utah Senate Monday along party lines. 

Sponsored by Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, the bill exempts abortions in cases of rape, incest, if the mother’s life is at risk and if the fetus has a lethal defect. People who perform abortions made illegal under the bill would be charged with a second degree felony. 

McCay argued on the Senate floor Monday that people seeking abortions should consider other options to deal with their unwanted pregnancies. 

“Even when we feel like there is no other way to do something, there are always other options, and I ask that until this bill takes effect that they exercise that choice to benefit life,” McCay said. 

But Democratic senators said the bill amounts to government intrusion in a personal decision. 

Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, described a family in a hospital making a tough decision “with information that none of us have.”

“Here we are, us sitting here, going to make a decision on how that goes and what the process is and we know better — we don't,” Escamilla said. “There can’t be anything more sad than to think that the government is going to intrude on our decisions so personal and difficult like this one.” 

McCay argued, however, that it is the government’s role to speak for the voiceless, referring to unborn fetuses.

“It's regrettable that the government has to protect the unborn from a parent,” McCay said, adding that he believes life begins at conception. 

“A lot of really aggressive anti-abortion politicians … have a personal belief that life begins at conception,” said Alliance for a Better Utah policy director Lauren Simpson. “That’s their personal belief. And that's not something that's fair for them to impose on everybody.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet made a ruling that would overturn Roe v. Wade, Gov. Gary Herbert said the bill may be “premature.” 

“It may be kind of a feel good message bill with really not anything happening to it as far as real results,” Herbert told reporters Thursday. 

McCay said he decided to run the bill in advance of a Supreme Court decision so that the justices could consider Utah’s stance on abortion. 

“It is important for the Supreme Court and is important for the rest of the country to see that there are divided opinions about the way things ought to be dealt with,” McCay said. “It's important as they're looking at that case and policy that they see that this is where Utah would be.”

The bill now heads to Utah’s House of Representatives. Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, has said he expects strong support for it there as well.

Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson

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