The state's Abortion Task Force will present the 1991 Legislature with one of the toughest abortion bills in the nation. And the president of the American Civil Liberties Union has promised a "swift and certain legal challenge" if such a bill becomes law.
Under the abortion limitation bill, most abortions would be banned. It contains exceptions for rape, incest, and the mother's or baby's ability to survive childbirth.Abortions in case of rape would be allowed only if the victim reported the rape to a hospital or law enforcement agency within five days. If she was physically unable to report it, she would have 48 hours after she became able to report it. A woman would also have to report incest to officials.
The task force discussed allowing abortions if the child would be born with "profound and irremedial physical or mental disabilities incompatible to sustain life." Panelists Monday tightened that to "unable to survive birth."
The bill removes an earlier provision to allow abortion to prevent "serious and permanent damage to (the mother's) health." A doctor must certify that she would die carrying the child to term.
In case of a serious medical emergency, notice to parents and informed consent for an abortion could be waived. But an abortion could be performed only for one of the four exceptions.
Representatives from National Right to Life who attended the final task force meeting expressed pleasure with the outcome of the seven-month effort. "We are ecstatic," said Rosa Goodnight of Utah Right to Life. "We couldn't have hoped for any better."
Representatives from Planned Parenthood, the Utah Women's Health Clinic, ACLU and the Utah chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League called a press conference Tuesday to express dismay.
"We will do everything we can to keep the option of abortion available, safe and legal in Utah," ACLU director Michele A. Parish-Pixler said. "This decision should be made by the woman or girl with her family and doctor, not by the government. Compulsory childbearing is clearly unconstitutional."
"This wasn't a good law gone bad," said Kerry Galloway, Planned Parenthood. "The process was jaded . . . from the very beginning. The agenda was to limit the number of abortions in Utah regardless of the consequences to the women in this state."
"The question is not whether abortion is right or wrong," said NARAL director Susanne Millsaps. "The question is who decides. . . . We will see thousands of dollars spent on defending an indefensible piece of legislation, when that money could be better spent improving our children's education, our state's infrastructure or any other number of important and worthwhile causes."