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House committee passes 3 anti-abortion bills

Published: Wednesday, March 2 2011 4:08 a.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Three anti-abortion bills were passed by a House committee Tuesday, including a bill requiring more frequent state inspections of abortion clinics.

"We have no idea if they're following our laws, and we have no idea if women's health is being put at risk," Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, the sponsor of HB171.

Wimmer began his presentation to the House Health and Human Services Committee by showing a video about unsanitary conditions at some out-of-state clinics that led to infections and even deaths.

He said one of the state's three abortion clinics has not been inspected in more than two years, and that no one is sure how many doctors perform elective abortions in the first trimester.

HB171, Wimmer said, would require twice-yearly inspections of abortion clinics and the doctors performing abortions except in cases of rape, incest or the health of the mother.

Doctors under the bill would be asked whether they perform elective abortions when they renew their medical licenses with the state, and those that do would have to obtain a permit.

All clinics subject to inspections under the bill would be required to pay a fee that would be set by the state to cover the cost, because, Wimmer said, Utahns overwhelmingly do not support elective abortions.

Department of Health deputy director Teresa Garrett told the committee she was not aware of any problems in Utah clinics similar to those in the video. She said the last deficiency found was that meetings weren't being held.

Melissa Bird, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Utah, said the requirements under the bill were "onerous and expensive" and injecting politics into health care.

The Utah Medical Association's Michelle McOmber raised concerns about licensing doctor's offices as abortion clinics and the possibility the names and home addresses of those doctors could become public.

Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka spoke in favor of the bill, saying that women might not be willing to complain if they develop an infection as a result of unsanitary conditions.

The bill passed the committee with three members opposed, including Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake, who said "it's reaching for a problem that doesn't exist in this state."

The committee also passed two other anti-abortion bills from Wimmer, HB353, which expands the state's freedom of conscience law, and HB354, which would exempt the state from having to offer insurance plans under the federal health care law that pay for elective abortions.

All three of the bills now go to the House.

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