SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to the abortion-rights "report cards" NARAL Pro-Choice issues for each of the 50 states, Pro Life advocates aspire for nothing less than a failing grade.
Among the state legislatures around the country implementing wildly divergent abortion laws, South Dakota (NARAL grade: F) and California (NARAL grade: A+) provide snapshots of polarizing Pro Life and Pro Choice approaches, respectively, to abortion legislation. While Utah isn't quite on par with the activist South Dakotans, the Beehive State's abortion laws are trending in that direction.
South Dakota is one of 17 states to receive a grade of "F" from NARAL Pro-Choice America for its abortion laws. The Mount Rushmore State has a law on the books that would make performing almost all kinds of abortions a felony punishable by two years in prison; the law is presently dormant, but will be triggered into activity if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
The Pro-Life climate of South Dakota's legislature is so prevalent, in fact, that in February Rep. Phil Jensen proposed a bill seeking to extend the definition of "justifiable homicide" to "include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus" – language that would apply to killing an abortionist if the intent thereof is protecting the unborn.
Only after national media outlets blistered Jensen's bill was the legislation shelved. "We're being referred to as extremists by those on the other side," Jensen said. "But I see nothing wrong with South Dakota leading the way as far as some of these bills are concerned. This is the determination of human life … you can go to jail for destroying a bald eagle's egg, but if you do that to humans you can get away with it."
Unlike South Dakota, California's abortion policy includes protective language in its state code that would ensure the continued legality of abortions even if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
"Congress still does not believe fully in the right to choice, and therefore they deny hundreds of thousands of women the right to an abortion," Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown told the San Francisco Public Press last year. "At the end of the day, the right of each woman to decide for herself what her future is. Is she going to be a mother or not? That's something so fundamental to the concept of liberty."
Where does Utah fall on the spectrum of abortion rights? NARAL Pro-Choice gives Utah the same "F" grade as South Dakota, but within that classification significant variance exists given that more than one-third of states earned the same distinction. To date, Utah's abortion laws have not attracted the same media spotlight as South Dakota's. But if Rep. Carl Wimmer (R-Herriman), who sponsored three successful abortion-restricting bills during the recent legislative session, has his druthers in the years ahead Utah will lead the fight to eradicate abortion's constitutional protections.
"Within the next 5-10 years, I see Utah challenging Roe v. Wade on its face," Wimmer said. "I think that we need to be more certain of the makeup of the (Supreme) Court. If a pro-abortion justice were to step down and be replaced by a more constitutionally minded pro-life justice, then at that point I think it would be a no-brainer and this state would probably move forward to ban elective abortions and challenge Roe v. Wade."