Utah House passes bill to extend abortion waiting period

Published: Monday, March 5 2012 8:11 p.m. MST

Skies are sunny in as the Utah State Legislature meets, Jan. 27, 2012.rn

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Women seeking abortions would have to a wait 72 hours under an amended bill the Utah House overwhelmingly passed with little discussion Monday.

"This is not a pro-choice bill or a pro-life bill," said bill sponsor Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy. "Rather, it's a pro-consumer bill."

HB461 would triple the current 24-hour waiting period. Utah would have one of the nation's longest waiting periods between the initial consultation and the procedure.

Opponents of the measure argued in a House a committee meeting that the change would place undue burdens on women, particularly those who live in remote areas with little access to an abortion clinic. The state's only abortion provider is in Salt Lake County.

Eliason removed a provision calling for the initial consultation to take place in a clinic. Now it could be held anywhere in the state. The bill passed 59-11.

Waiting periods aren't uncommon for buying a gun or refinancing a mortgage, Eliason said. Marriages, he said, can be annulled. "But an abortion can't be undone."

Time to consider the decision is one factor leading to fewer abortions, Eliason said.

"Why not afford a small amount of time to consider the ramifications of what will last a lifetime?" he said.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Salt Lake, was the only House member to speak against HB461. She said she's seen a number of abortion bills during her 12 years in the Legislature and they have to two things in common: the goal is to reduce the number of abortion and the measures are all run by men.

"If there has been a reduction in abortions, there have been a number of variables," she said, citing better access to birth control as a factor.

Comprehensive sex education in public schools would make a difference, Moss said. "But you know how that bill turned out in this body."

Moss said HB461 is another government intrusion into private, difficult decisions that adults have to make.

"This doesn't limit their ability to have an abortion," Eliason said. "We've made accommodations for those in rural areas."

Moss echoed comments made in the House committee hearing last month, when Heather Stringfellow, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, also called the bill government overreach into private, personal decision.

Jean Hill of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake, spoke in support of the measure but asked lawmakers to keep in mind that the majority of women who seek abortions live in poverty and lack access to health care.

Laura Bunker of United Families Utah also supported the bill, telling the committee that both of her children are adopted.

"Seventy two hours is not too much to ask for a life-altering decision that affects a woman, her child and generations to come."

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com, Twitter: dennisromboy

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