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Nation's longest abortion waiting period among new Utah laws taking effect

Published: Monday, May 7 2012 6:06 p.m. MDT

Fireworks are for sale at a stand at 9000 South and State Street in Sandy on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah now has the longest abortion waiting period in the country, but groups opposed to the new law have no immediate plans to challenge it in court.

State lawmakers extended the mandatory wait from 24 hours to 72 hours during the legislative session earlier this year. The law, along with 311 other new statutes passed by the 2012 Legislature, takes effect Tuesday.

Planned Parenthood executive director Karrie Galloway calls it the "most onerous law in the land" on abortion.

"What it says is that the Utah Legislature doesn't trust that a woman knows how to make a decision," she said. "The (former) law was working fine."

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, the sponsor of the law, has said it is neither pro-choice nor pro-life but rather pro-consumer. Waiting periods aren't uncommon for buying a gun or refinancing a mortgage, he said.

"It establishes a very important consumer protection in a matter that is life or death," Eliason said. "It's important that a woman understands the ramifications of her decision, and what her options are, without being pressured."

Galloway and ACLU of Utah executive director Karen McCreary say they don't plan to file a lawsuit at this point but will watch how the law is applied. Utah's law is similar to one in South Dakota that a federal judge has barred from taking effect. The major difference is the South Dakota statute requires women to seek counseling at pregnancy help centers that discourage abortions.

The abortion waiting period is among 477 bills lawmakers approved this year, including two that Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed. The remainder have already gone into effect or will July 1, the start of the state's new fiscal year. The number of passed bills is down slightly from 2011, but up from the previous four years.

Among those new laws are restrictions on taking pictures on farms, fireworks use and tanning salons.

The states so-called "ag gag" bill created international controversy and had Hollywood stars such as Katherine Heigl weighing in to condemn it. The legislation targets what Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, described as "animal rights terrorists" who take surreptitious videos or photos on farmers’ property to create propaganda aimed at destroying the agriculture industry.

The law makes it a class B misdemeanor to trespass onto private livestock or poultry operations and record sound or images without the owner's permission. It also prohibits seeking employment with the intent of making those recordings. Leaving a recording device for that purpose would be a class A misdemeanor.

And while the state made it a crime to shoot pictures of farm animals under certain conditions, it made it worth more to shoot a certain wily predator with a gun. The bounty for killing a coyote more than doubled from $20 to $50.

Bill sponsor Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, said coyotes present a serious threat to livestock as well as mule deer. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources says coyotes can cause problems but a bounty is inefficient for protecting wildlife. The Utah Humane Society opposes the law because it says a reward encourages needless killing and traps could threaten house pets.

Fireworks  also were a hot topic on Capitol Hill. Last year lawmakers extended the time period for legal use. This year they moved it back to three days before and three days after the Fourth of July and Pioneer Day. Fireworks also are legal on New Years Eve and Chinese New Year. The measure restricts use to the hours of 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., except for the New Years holidays when it extends to 1 a.m.

The legislature also place new restrictions on tanning salons. Salons may not admit children under 18 unless their parents or legal guardian are with them and provide written consent on each visit. Lawmakers say the goal is to prevent children from being exposed to ultraviolet radiation that leads to skin cancer.

Contributing: Associated Press

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

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