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Elective Abortion Ban Passes Utah Legislature

Photo of a legislative chamber, with people sitting at rows of wooden desks.
Sonja Hutson
The Utah House of Representatives debates a bill banning all elective abortions.

A bill banning all elective abortions, if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, passed the Utah Legislature Thursday after the House of Representatives approved it 51-21.

It allows abortions in cases of rape, incest, if the mother’s life is at risk or if the fetus has a lethal abnormality. 

“This bill is meant to discourage the taking of a human life,” said Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, the bill’s floor sponsor. “There are many of our colleagues who assert that they are pro-choice, but there are many choices available to a woman. One of the choices that's available is adoption.”

Violating the law, including people who perform their own abortions, would be a second-degree felony. 

“I support efforts to reduce the number of abortions,” said Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper. “But passing this extreme bill with black and white language will not result in a reduction in the number of abortions. It will reduce the number of [safe] abortions … To be clear, women will die.”

Harrison, a practicing physician, added that the government should not interfere in a personal decision between a patient and their doctor. 

Democrats tried unsuccessfully to pass two amendments. One would have knocked down the penalty from a felony to an infraction. The other would have removed the requirement for doctors performing abortions for rape victims to verify that the assault had been reported to law enforcement. 

Six Republicans broke with their party and voted against the bill. 

It now heads to Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk for his signature or veto. 

Herbert told reporters three weeks ago that he was pro-life and supportive of limiting elective abortions, but felt that the bill was possibly “premature.”

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

The ACLU of Utah has said it is still undecided whether to sue over the bill, should the governor sign it. 

Editor's Note: Rep. Suzanne Harrison is a member of KUER’s advisory board.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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