Abortion statistics reporting bill draws sharp Senate debate

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 19 2013 3:48 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill calling for the state health department to report annual abortion statistics to the Utah Legislature, including a woman's race and ethnicity, drew sharp debate Tuesday in the Senate.

"This is only about statistics and information gathering dealing with the number of abortions that are done in our state," said Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, sponsor of SB60.

Along with the number of abortions performed each year, the Utah Department of Health would have to report the stage of pregnancy for each abortion, the race of the woman and the reason for the procedure. Recording the reason for the abortion would be voluntary, Dayton said.

"I know of no policing of filling out the form," she said.

But Democrats peppered Dayton with questions about why the state would need some of the information the measure seeks, including the reason why a woman has an abortion.

"I guess, statistically, I don't even know how that matters," said Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City. "I don't know if this is germane to statistical data that is really needed."

Dayton said women seeking abortions already fill out a federal form asking for that information, and the bill would just be including it in state law.

"Whether or not somebody fills that out, whether they tell the truth, we don't know that, but it is on the form," she said.

Davis also questioned the need to ask about race or ethnicity, saying it's not an important statistic for the state to be collecting.

Sen. Pat Jones, D-Salt Lake City, said some women agonize about whether to have an abortion, and asking those types of questions would add to that agony.

Dayton said Democrats were losing sight of the intent of the bill because their questions seemed to aimed at "whether or not we're interfering with a woman's right to have an abortion or what she's going to say about it."

The bill, she said, focuses on gathering information to help lawmakers make abortion policy choices in the future.

"Maybe it's a good thing we have only have five members of the minority party because I've now answered questions for all of them," Dayton said as the debate concluded.

The Senate preliminarily approved the measure 21-2. It will be up for a final vote later this week.

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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