Lawmakers on the Abortion Task Force couldn't agree Friday exactly how the legislation should read, even though the measures will be presented to the public at a series of hearings scheduled throughout the state.
During their four-hour meeting, they decided to let Utahns look at two bills under consideration, including one drafted by Brigham Young University professor Richard Wilkins.The bill drafted by Wilkins, who has served as an adviser on abortion legislation to governors in both Utah and Idaho, wasn't received by task force members until Thursday.
The task force did not have a chance to discuss the Wilkins bill in detail before having to adjourn the last meeting scheduled before the public hearings.
As written, the Wilkins bill makes it unlawful for "non-therapeutic" abortions to be performed in the state. Any doctor doing so would be guilty of an as yet unspecified crime.
The bill defines a "therapeutic" abortion as one that, "in the judgment of a reasonably prudent physician, supported by credible evidence in the patient's medical records, is reasonably necessary to:"
- Save the life of a pregnant woman or "prevent serious and permanent damage to her physical health or
- Terminate a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or
- Prevent the birth of a child that would be born with "profound and irremediable physical or mental disabilities"
The other bill that will be presented for public comment is the one the task force has worked to perfect for the past nine months. The task force has yet to agree on specific language.
Friday, though, task force members agreed the bill would permit abortion only in the following cases:
- Rape, when reported to authorities within 48 hours
- Fetal deformity, if a concurring opinion from a second doctor is obtained
- When the physical health of the mother is threatened
After much debate, the task force did agree to reject a provision that would have permitted abortion when the mother's mental health was threatened by her pregnancy.
The co-chairman of the task force, Rep. Evan Olsen, R-Young Ward, said he was satisfied with what the group has been able to accomplish.
Olsen said he did not expect bills' concepts to change as a result of the hearings. The task force will meet in November so a final bill can be prepared for the 1991 Legislature.
Hearings on proposals
Here's the abortion task force public hearing schedule on proposed legislation: All hearings to begin at 7 p.m. For additional information, phone 538-1032.
- Salt Lake City: Oct. 22, Salt Lake County Commission Chambers, 2100 S. State St.
- Richfield: Oct. 23, Downstairs auditorium, Sevier County Courthouse.
- Cedar City: Oct. 24, Thorley Recital Hall, Southern Utah State College.
- St. George: Oct. 25, St. George City Council Chambers.
- Vernal: Oct. 29.*
- Price: Oct. 30*
- Orem: Nov. 1, Orem City Council Chambers.
- Ogden: Nov. 5*
- Logan: Nov. 7*
*Location to be announced.