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Gov. Gary Herbert Signs Bills On Abortion, Polygamy And Affordable Housing

Man in a suit and red tie stands at podium with the Utah state seal.
Pool Photo
Gov. Gary Herbert delivered his 2020 State of the State address in January. Saturday, he signed 151 bills from the legislative session into law.

Gov. Gary Herbert signed 151 bills Saturday, including a $10 million affordable housing bill, a bill essentially decriminalizing polygamy and a controversial bill to ban elective abortions should Roe v. Wade be overturned. 

He has now signed 334 out of 510 bills passed by the Utah legislature during its 2020 General Session. 

Here are some of the bills Herbert approved Saturday: 

Health

Elective Abortion Ban: If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, elective abortions would become illegal in Utah under the new law. Abortions would be allowed in cases of rape, incest, if the mother’s life is at risk or if the fetus has a lethal defect. 

Fetal Remains: Doctors will have to ask patients seeking abortions and patients who have had miscarriages in medical facilties if they would like the fetus to be buried or cremated. The patient does not have to choose, but the medical facility does have to bury or cremate the fetus if the patient does not want to make their own arrangements for it. The law bans medical facilities from disposing of fetal remains as medical waste, which is current practice and usually involves incineration. 

Newborn Safe Haven: This law increases the amount of time that someone is allowed to anonymously drop off a newborn child at a hospital from three days to 30 days. 

E-Cigarettes In Schools: Schools will have to officially ban e-cigarettes and they’ll be allowed to confiscate and destroy them under the new law. The bill is one of many that the state legislature passed this session aimed at curbing teen vaping, although several anti-vaping bills were watered down or killed. 

Criminal Justice

Bail Reform: This new law, aimed at moving Utah away from its reliance on cash bail, requires judges to release people before their trials using the least restrictive condition appropriate to their case. That could include things like drug tests, ankle monitors or weekly check-ins. It could also include cash bail. When assigning a release condition, judges must consider public safety, the defendant’s flight risk and the potential threat to witnesses and victims. 

Conviction Integrity Units: Conviction Integrity Units, which already exist in California, Texas and Salt Lake County, review convictions for new or non-disclosed evidence and can recommend to prosecutors that they try to vacate or change the conviction. This law encourages, but does not require, prosecutors’ offices across the state to create these units, as well as gives guidance on how to do that. 

Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Task Force: Native Americans experience the highest rate of homicide of all races in Utah, according to the state’s Department of Vital Records, and instances of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls go significantly underreported, according to a study by the Urban Indian Health Institute. Herbert signed a law that creates a task force to study the issue.

Other

Polygamy: Polygamy between consenting adults will become an infraction rather than a felony under this law. However, if polygamy is linked to charges like child abuse and kidnapping, the polygamy charge remains a felony. 

Affordable Housing: The state will give $10 million to private developers to build affordable housing under this new law. The bill originally called for $35 million to go towards housing production and rental assistance, but the bill’s sponsor said it would still create about 1,400 affordable units.

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

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